09/17/2010 4:43PM

Rule would lower Bute threshold level


A committee of the Association of Racing Commissioners International has asked the organization’s board of directors to approve a model rule that would lower the threshold level for a popular therapeutic painkiller, the association’s president said on Friday.

On Friday, the Model Rules Committee of the RCI unanimously voted to recommend lowering the threshold for phenylbutazone, which is known as Bute, to two micrograms per milliliter of plasma or serum in post-race blood tests, down from the current recommendation of five micrograms. The board of directors will consider the change at its October meeting, according to the RCI’s president, Ed Martin.

The change was considered by the committee after officials of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium received complaints from state veterinarians that the use of the painkiller was complicating efforts to determine soundness of racehorses in pre-race exams. Bute is one of the most widely used therapeutic medications in the racing industry, although the administration of the drug is prohibited on race day.

In formal statements filed with the committee, several leading horsemen’s groups, including the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the Thoroughbred Owners of California, and the California Thoroughbred Trainers, objected to the change, contending that a lower threshold would put far more horsemen at risk for a positive for the drug even if the intent of administration was purely therapeutic and outside the allowable 24-hour window.

Currently, two racing jurisdictions, Maryland and Pennsylvania, have a two microgram threshold level for Bute. If the RCI’s board of directors approves the rule, then the RCI would send the proposed rule change to its member racing jurisdictions with the recommendation that the rule be adopted.

Officials of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium earlier this year recommended that the RCI consider the rule change. Dr. Scot Waterman, the executive director of the consortium, said at the time that the change would not impact any trainer who was using the drug within the legal limits already proscribed, but would “prevent cheating under the 24-hour limit.”