12/09/2016 4:46PM

RCI committee approves recommended rules for out-of-competition testing

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The model-rules committee of a national group representing racing commissions has approved a set of recommended rules for out-of-competition testing and adopted modifications to rules related to penalties, according to participants in the meeting.

The two proposals, which were approved by the Model Rules Committee of the Association of Racing Commissioners International at a meeting Thursday in Tucson, Ariz., had generated intense discussions leading up to the Thursday vote. In fact, many participants in the discussions expressed doubts going into the meeting that either would be approved, citing the difficulty in reaching consensus.

With the approvals, the new rules, which were devised by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, will be sent to states to consider for individual approval. Although approval by the model-rules committee is ostensibly a weighty recommendation for individual racing jurisdictions to adopt the same rules, racing states often fail to adopt the recommended rules in part or as a whole due to local considerations.

The approvals were seen as critical to progress in ongoing effort called the National Uniform Medication Program that seeks to align U.S. racing states under one set of rules. Although most racing organizations support the state-by-state effort as a matter of necessity, some major racing organizations would instead prefer that the racing industry support an effort to pass a federal bill establishing a top-down regulatory structure to achieve the same results, and a defeat of the rules would likely have emboldened the proponents of the federal legislation.

“In general, I think we’re moving forward,” said Dr. Dionne Benson, the executive director of the RMTC, which supports the state-by-state effort, in reference to the votes on Thursday. “But the issue has and will always be whether these things get passed by the state commissions.”

The out-of-competition testing rules will expand a set of rules that the RCI had first approved in 2007. Although several states already have out-of-competition testing rules on the books and have implemented testing programs under those rules, many other states have held off on consideration of the rules until the RCI approved a new set, a process that has taken several years and led critics to attack the industry’s slow progress on the front.

The modifications to the penalty system will have the effect of narrowing the circumstances under which trainers are assigned additional suspensions for violations of medication rules within a specific time frame. The modifications will also, in most cases, reduce the lengths of those additional suspensions.

The Jockey Club, which has a seat on the 23-member RMTC board, had urged the model-rules committee to pull the modifications from its agenda earlier this week, calling the changes a “watered-down version” of the original rules, known as the Multiple Medication Violation Penalty System.

The Jockey Club, which is leading the support for the federal legislation, had voted against the modifications when they came up for approval by the RMTC board last week, but it was the only member of the board to do so.

Horsemen had pressed for the changes because they considered the original rules too punitive in circumstances where trainers were assigned points for routine therapeutic medication overages and for violations that could be traced to environmental contamination, representatives of horsemen said.

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