Scope of the problem
The joint congressional statement notes, "There are numerous examples of trainers who violated medication rules multiple times,
seemingly with impunity. A recent Racing Commissioners International letter notes that one trainer has been sanctioned at
least 64 times in nine states for various rule violations, including numerous violations of drug rules. According to the New York Times, only two of the top 20 trainers in the United States (by purses won) have never been cited for a medication violation."
Most in the horseracing industry find the use of illegal drugs in race horses disconcerting. The spirit of the legislation
is to deter potential offenders, improve horses' health and safety and improve the public's perception of the sport.
"This is basically to clean up the drug situation in the Thoroughbred industry, similar to any other sport —all the performance-enhancing
drugs that are allowed on race day, like furosemide, bute, etc.—in order to have us be like the rest of the world," says Arthur
Hancock, owner of Stone Farm, Lexington, Ky. "The purpose of the legislation is to regain our integrity, like England, France
and Hong Kong, and to protect the breed and its superior genetics as to compared to Thoroughbreds in those countries. There
should be no performance-enhancing drugs in a horse's system on race day. There can be a pica gram of something or other,
just like in England, especially if a horse is suffering from a cut, as long as the drug is not performance-enhancing. That's
basically the thrust of the bill in Washington."
Hancock says the bill is similar to English rules: If a drug affects any of the horse's systems in a way that would enhance
performance, it would be banned. "One can train with therapeutic drugs, as are the rules set by the Jockey Club in England,
similar to our model rules," says Hancock. The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and veterinarians would have to decide
on similar rules. If enacted, the bill would give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the right to set new rules in consultation
with equine veterinarians.
AAEP, The Jockey Club support spirit of the bill
"As doctors of veterinary medicine, our primary focus when evaluating the act is its effect on the health and safety of the
racehorse," says William Moyer, DVM, president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), in a statement
issued May 6. "AAEP supports the responsible use and regulation of valid therapeutic medications in horseracing. We also support
the concept of a national uniform medication policy.
"Racehorses currently compete in a heavily regulated environment with very clear distinctions between illegal drugs and valid
medications that provide therapeutic benefit," Moyer says. "The very broad language of the bill could eliminate, as written,
beneficial treatment of active equine athletes at any time—not just on the day of competition. We urge Congress to work with
the horse racing industry to learn more about the healthcare implications of this bill as it is written and stand ready to
assist in that process."
James Gagliano, president and COO of The Jockey Club, declined to comment on the legislation until he had had a chance to
fully review it. "The Jockey Club shares the belief that performance-enhancing medication has no place in Thoroughbred racing,"
Gagliano says. "As we said in our April 28th statement, The Jockey Club stands convinced that the elimination of race-day
medication is essential to achieving optimal stewardship of the horse, the sport, the public perception and confidence and
the business of Thoroughbred racing."
But Ed Martin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, has some reservations about the bill. "When
you look at the bill, when you get past all the rhetoric, what you have is what appears to be an attempt to replicate the
system in Canada, where a federal agency would be charged with the determination and enforcement of medication policy," says
Martin. "The problem is this legislation doesn't provide a way to pay for that. This proposal also creates a potential system
we fear could lead to the dismantling of the state drug testing apparatus. Every state racing commission is under tremendous
budgetary pressure, and if people in the various state governments think they can shift those costs off some other layer of
government, some legislators might attempt to do that."