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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

RCI Wants to Eliminate Medication in U.S. Horse Racing Over Next Five Years - What Do You Think of Their Plan?

Yesterday afternoon, the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) issued a press release on the heels of its annual convention titled, "RCI Leaders Call for Phase Out of Drugs." The release stated the organization's intention to eliminate medication from U.S. racing over the next five years.

According to the release, "These comments mark a major departure from regulatory policy that has been based on allowing traces of medication and a move toward enacting a policy of zero tolerance."

It was not clear from the release whether this includes barring horses from being able to train on medication. However, it is does appear that if "zero tolerance" is the goal by the end of five years, no medication would be allowed in a horse's system at the time it races (not even trace amounts that have been proven to have no scientific impact or racing performance).

How do you feel about this shift in policy? Do you think it is realistic? Do you think it is in the best interest of the sport and the horses that compete in our races? Please let us know by commenting below this post.

Following is the text from the RCI release:

RCI Leaders Call for Phase Out of Drugs

NEW ORLEANS - Both the outgoing and incoming Chairmen of RCI challenged the racing industry and member regulators to embrace a strategy to phase out drugs and medication in horse racing.

Outgoing RCI Chair, Dan Hartman of the Colorado Racing Commission, said that “a five-year phase out is reasonable to bring North American racing policies in line with what is going on in other parts of the world like Europe and Hong Kong.”   Hartman said that a phased approach would give horsemen and owners sufficient time to adjust to the change.

RCI’s new Chair, William Koester, the Chairman of the Ohio State Racing Commission, said, “Today over 99% of Thoroughbred racehorses and 70% of Standardbred racehorses have a needle stuck in them 4 hours before a race.  That just does not pass the smell test with the public or anyone else except horse trainers who think it necessary to win a race.   I'm sure the decision makers at the time meant well when these drugs were permitted, however this decision has forced our jurisdictions to juggle threshold levels as horseman become more desperate to win races and has given horse racing a black eye.”

These comments mark a major departure from regulatory policy that has been based on allowing traces of medication and a move toward enacting a policy of zero tolerance.

RCI President Ed Martin said the membership gathering in New Orleans last week was largely receptive to a major overhaul of medication policies.

Mr. Koester noted that “change is inevitable” and called for the association “to take the moral high ground and implement drug rules that mirror the racing in Australia, Dubai, Europe, Hong Kong, and even Russia.”

“If you follow horse racing, you probably heard of the names Well Armed, Curlin, Invasor, Roses in May, Pleasantly Perfect, Captain Steve, Silver Charm. and Cigar.   Eight of the last sixteen winners of the Dubai Cup were from North America and ran drug free. It can be done,” Koester said.

In recent years RCI has based its medication policies largely on recommendations from the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC).  A shift toward “zero tolerance” would mark a departure from that practice and a major change for trainers. 

Hartman concluded his remarks by telling the RCI members, “we regulators are the only voice in racing for the animals and betting public.  It’s time we raise the bar in service to both.”

Again, what do you think? Is this a good or bad thing? Comment below and let us know.


Anonymous said...

30 March 2011

I can’t believe the March 28th press release issued by Racing Commissioners International (RCI) concerning the call for phase out of drugs and medication in horse racing. Why must the RCI insist on shooting itself in the foot?

I would have thought by now RCI would have been aware that most testing laboratories have a zero tolerance policy. The public are now led to believe 99% of Thoroughbred and 70% of Standardbred racing is drug related. What a way for regulators to build confidence in the betting public!

For years, 28 industry stakeholders have financially and morally supported research being conducted by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) and have done so in the best interest of the horse racing and of the industry.

They not only raised the bar in New Orleans, but they must have also consumed it!


Conrad J. Cohen

Anonymous said...

Regarding the five year phase out of therapeutic medications recommended recently by RCI; do they not realize that they would be setting equine medical science back 50 years. Instead RCI should consider taking five years to phase out racing commission member organizations that refuse to uniformly apply their own medication model rules and penalties.

Conrad J. Cohen
Director, HBPA of Ontario

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