Congress introduces legislation to ban performance-enhancing drugs - DVM
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Congress introduces legislation to ban performance-enhancing drugs
If enacted, the Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act of 2011 woul impose fines for violations


Zero tolerance for drugs on race day

If the bill is passed, racetracks would be required to perform drug testing, and they would not be permitted to exempt any medications, including bute and furosemide. "The emphasis would be no drugs on race day," Whitfield says.

If enacted, the law would be enforced through the FTC. It would require a state's racing commission to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the FTC.

So with the new legislation, could drugs be administered to horses a few days before a race? Whitfield says, "The overall objective is to get away from the rampant use of drugs being used today and basically have zero drug tolerance. But everyone understands that horses, like professional athletes, become injured, and they have pain. And many times you've got to do something to mitigate those issues, and you might have residual levels on race day."

An alternative view

"The proposed legislation, as it's currently drafted, has an additional layer of regulation on the racing industry in one general area, the medication and the drug testing program," says Martin. "We have an alternative proposal, one we hope the sponsors would embrace, which would not create another layer, but would reorganize the existing layer, in a multistate fashion, as an Interstate Regulatory Compact."

According to Martin, current public policy allows only one drug—furosemide—to be administered on race day. "There is considerable sentiment among my members to phase out the use of furosemide on race day," says Martin. "That's a proposal that has been made by our chairman, Commissioner Koester of Ohio. In that sense, there are some parallels with some things that are already underway. But there's an equine welfare debate that needs to take place before a change in public policy can be implemented. And that's what we're hoping to have over the next several months, so we can reach an informed and sustainable conclusion on this."

One of Martin's overriding concerns is the lack of exception. "A weakness of the proposed legislation is that it treats all substances equally," says Martin. "We have decades of work that has gone into the classification document and the existing regulatory policy—not only in the United States, but pretty much around the world—that has delineated the differences between the various substances. Some substances would indicate a deliberate attempt to cheat, and others would indicate a mistake in the shedrow. But the bill as it's currently proposed would kick somebody out of racing permanently for their third bute overage."

Ed Kane, PhD, is a researcher and consultant in animal nutrition. He is an author and editor on nutrition, physiology and veterinary medicine with a background in horses, pets and livestock. Kane is based in Seattle.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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