N.Y. Senator rallies for furosemide ban

N.Y. Senator rallies for furosemide ban

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Nov 01, 2011
By dvm360.com staff

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Senator Thomas Duane says he intends to introduce legislation calling for a statewide ban on use of furosemide for any horse participating in a state-sanctioned horse race.

Duane made the statement on Sept. 21, the opening day of the fall season at Belmont Park. At presstime, the senator had not yet made good on his promise to introduce the legislation.

The diuretic furosemide was found to prevent bleeding in horses in the early 1970s and has since been used in racehorses to prevent nosebleeds or blood in the lungs. Critics of the use of furosemide in competition argue that the drug has weakened the racing breed and "causes irreparable harm to horses, which in turn has hurt the industry with horses burning out before they can enter major races," he says.

New York banned the drug for nearly two decades. In 1995, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board lifted the ban. In 2010, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) began its own in-house drug testing program for illegal performance-enhancing drugs, and in January 2011 NYRA began the practice of having its veterinarians be the only ones permitted to administer furosemide on race day. NYRA said at the time that this practice would eliminate the need for private veterinarians to enter a horse's stall on race day.

New York already bans other performance-enhancing drugs in racehorses. Duane contends that those actions are still not enough.

"We ban all other athletes in every other sport from taking performance-enhancing drugs both for their safety and to maintain the integrity of their sports," Duane says. "Yet we embrace the idea of dispensing Lasix to horses so they won't have a nosebleed or develop blood in their lungs during a big race. This is unacceptable."

Duane says his legislation will be based on a federal model currently pending in the U.S. Senate. It would require the New York State Racing and Wagering Board to establish regulations and enforcement for the ban, and prohibit all performance-enhancing drugs, except those used to treat infection, on any horse entering a race in New York.

An accredited third-party testing laboratory would be responsible for random testing of all competing horses. And it would require mandatory testing for any horse finishing first in a race.

Under the legislation, anyone who provides a horse with performance-enhancing drugs will be subject to a fine of $5,000 and a 180-event suspension for a first offense, a $20,000 fine and one-year suspension for a second offense, and fines of $50,000 and permanent banishment from New York horse-racing activities for third offenses.

Horses given performance-enhancing drugs or racing in violation of the law would result in a 180-event suspension from racing in New York for a first offense, a one-year suspension for a second offense, and a two-year ban for subsequent offenses.

Partial owners and horse-racing staff who know about performance-enhancing drug use and make "good faith efforts" to try to stop it will be given legal protections under the law, if passed.

"New York has been the gold standard in horse racing for close to 150 years. It was not until 1995 that we allowed the shameful practice of pumping horses with these drugs, and for very little gain. New York can do better than this, and I am confident this legislation will guarantee an end to this practice."