06/21/2012 5:32PM

Thoroughbred Racing Associations endorses uniform medication guidelines


A racetrack trade group representing nearly all of the major tracks in North America has endorsed the adoption of uniform medication guidelines and a ban on all raceday drugs with the exception of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide, the group, the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, announced Thursday.

The TRA's board of directors endorsed those and other policies at a board meeting in Baltimore in May, the group said. As a whole, the policies do not vary widely from the recommendations of both the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, an industry-funded group that studies medication issues and policies, and the Association of Racing Commissioners International, an umbrella group for state racing commissions.

On the issue of the use of furosemide, commonly known as Lasix, which has been a topic of debate in the racing industry for more than a year, the TRA said that "any jurisdictions permitting raceday use of furosemide" should restrict administrations to state veterinarians and comply with limits setting the minimum and maximum dosages. Many states are in the process of adopting those policies, if they are not already in place. The TRA also said it supported a ban on so-called "adjunct bleeder" medications, which are legal on race day in several states, though several of those states are phasing the rules out.

The TRA also endorsed existing threshold levels set for the painkiller phenylbutazone and a bronchial dilator, clenbuterol. The recommended threshold level for phenylbutazone was revised downward several years ago by the medication consortium to ensure that horses are not being administered the drug within 48 hours before post, and many states have already adopted the lower level.  Clenbuterol's level has been set by the medication consortium to discourage use of the drug as a muscle-builder. The drug has steroid-like effects when administered regularly and frequently.

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium is currently in the midst of a project to set scientifically supported threshold levels for 26 therapeutic medications, and when the project is complete, the consortium has said that it will push states to adopt the new regulations, with the finding of any other drug in a postrace sample considered a violation. The TRA said it supported the consortium's effort.

The TRA also said that it supported a model rule from the racing commissioners' group that would increase penalties for trainers with multiple violations and allow states to consider violations in other states when applying penalties in their own.

The endorsement of the policies comes at a time when racing has been aggressively targeted by critics of its medication policies and safety record. Critics of the sport have contended that the sport suffers from a lack of regulation and a lax enforcement of its rules.