Despite strong opposition from most of the horsemen's groups in the United States, the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) Model Rules Committee voted unanimously to recommend lowering the threshold of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone (Bute) on Friday, September 17. The change will not be fully adopted as a model rule until it is approved by the RCI Board of Directors, which is expected to meet in early October.
At its convention in Minnesota in July, the National HBPA Board of Directors took an official position actively objecting to any change to the RCI Model Rule regarding phenylbutazone because it was clear at that time - based on the presentations made by a forum panel consisting of 12 top scientific and regulatory voices on this subject (DVD copies of the forum were sent to the RCI for distribution to its Model Rules Committee) - that there was still doubt in the scientific community that the preponderance of scientific evidence demonstrates that there is an effect on the athletic performance of the horse at the 5 mcg./ml. Nor that the scientific evidence demonstrated that the 5 mcg./ml. level impairs the ability to conduct accurate pre-race examinations. It is understood that while the vast majority of horses test below the 2 mcg./ml. level, the 5 mcg./ml. level simply provides a safety margin to avoid inappropriate positives – which has been a major issue in Colorado and Minnesota this past summer.
National HBPA President and CEO Joe Santanna commented at the time, “We represent the majority of racing horsemen in North America. And while a rule change like this might seem somewhat benign, it could lead to unfair burdens on horsemen and unnecessary negative media scrutiny of our industry and its participants. So the burden here – as it should be on any important rule change – was the science. Does a preponderance of scientific evidence in this case show a clear line between a lowered regulatory threshold and a decrease in the rate of musculoskeletal/catastrophic racing injuries to horses? At this time, in our opinion, it does not.”
On Wednesday, September 23, an article on the subject by Tom LaMarra was posted on The Blood-Horse website providing more details:
Upset Lingers Over Proposed Bute Regulation
We encourage your to read Mr. LaMarra's article and come back here and comment as to your feelings regarding the RCI Model Rules Committee's action and whether or not you feel they followed their own burden of proof - a preponderance of scientific evidence - in this case?