10/26/2015 11:46AM

Survey: Lasix issue deemed a low priority

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More than 1,800 respondents to a survey posted recently on the Daily Racing Form website were evenly split on whether the regulated anti-bleeding medication furosemide should be legal to use on race day while ranking the issue near the bottom on a list of priorities for the sport to address.

Of the 1,860 responses, 70 percent of which came from respondents who identified themselves as bettors or racing fans, 41 percent said they supported the race-day use of furosemide, while 42 percent said they were opposed. Seventeen percent had no opinion, an extremely high percentage for such an apparently divisive issue. When asked to rank the issue of race-day furosemide use among 10 issues believed to be of importance to the health of the racing industry or the perception of the sport, the respondents placed the issue ninth overall.

In addition, the survey results showed that bettors overwhelmingly believe that horsemen are getting away with using illicit drugs that affect horses’ performances on race day despite little evidence that cheating is widespread in racing, such as a glut of positive drug tests for illicit drugs or the seizure of illegal substances at racetracks or training centers.

View detailed survey results here

Seventy-eight percent of all respondents said that states have not been effective in catching cheaters, with only 16 percent responding that states have been effective. (Six percent had no opinion.) In addition, the issue of the use of illicit drugs was ranked first on the list of 10 issues facing racing – and 76 percent of respondents said illicit drugs were a more urgent problem than race-day furosemide use, with only 12 percent stating the opposite.

DRF devised the survey at a time when racing organizations are fighting over a number of issues surrounding the regulation of medication and drugs in racing, including furosemide, which is most commonly known as Lasix. For the past five years, industry groups have been locked in a fierce debate over the issue of race-day furosemide use, with no side giving ground, and that issue has also become wrapped up in an effort by some influential industry organizations to solicit support for a federal bill that would allow the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, a private company, to devise and enforce the sport’s medication rules.

Opposition to the bill has been led by groups that are fearful of a federal bill and wary of the ultimate intentions of the organizations that support the legislation. Those groups have largely united behind an effort to continue to push for uniform rules among all 38 U.S. racing jurisdictions on a state-by-state basis, an effort that has had notable successes over the past several years while still falling well short of national adoption.

Respondents to the survey were overwhelming in support of a federal solution to medication regulation and solidly in support of the legislation, which is being co-sponsored by Reps. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.).

Seventy-seven percent of the respondents said the federal government should be responsible for regulating racing, with 16 percent stating that it was the responsibility of the state and 7 percent stating that the responsibility should be “local (or track).” Sixty-four percent said they support the Barr-Tonko bill, as the survey called the federal legislation, which it described as establishing “the independent Thoroughbred Horseracing Anti-Doping Authority to oversee all medication testing in racing, both post-race and out of competition.” Twenty-two percent said they were not in favor.

The legislation would rescind interstate simulcasting rights for tracks in states that do not comply with the USADA mandates. That has led some tracks to believe that the legislation could put the simulcasting of some signals in jeopardy due to disagreements between horsemen and the USADA. In a follow-up question, when respondents were asked if they were still in favor of the bill if the legislation put signals in jeopardy, 77 percent said they would still be in support, while 23 percent said they would not.

Support for the race-day use of Lasix varied depending on how much a respondent said he bet and whether he was a bettor/racing fan or owner/breeder. While bettors/racing fans overall were split 40-40 on race-day Lasix use, bettors or racing fans who said they bet no money or less than $5,000 a year opposed race-day Lasix by a ratio of 50 percent to 35 percent, while those who bet more than $25,000 a year supported race-day Lasix use by a 45-35 margin.

Respondents who identified themselves as owners and/or breeders opposed the race-day use of Lasix by a margin of 50 percent to 43 percent. They also were far more likely to have an opinion, with 7 percent indicating no opinion compared with 20 percent among bettors and racing fans overall.

Respondents also differed significantly by betting level on the issues they felt were most important to racing. Respondents who did not bet or bet less than $5,000 a year ranked horse welfare, catching illicit drugs, and uniform medication regulations as their top three priorities. Respondents who bet more than $25,000 a year ranked takeout rates, gambling taxes/tax-reporting requirements, and field size as their top three.

Respondents who did not bet or bet less than $5,000 a year ranked only gambling taxes lower than race-day Lasix use. Bettors who wagered more than $25,000 a year ranked Lasix use last.