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Friday, April 18, 2014

National HBPA's Comments Regarding The Stronach Group's Integrity Initiatives

The National HBPA supports various aspects of the Stronach Group’s integrity initiatives while at the same time questioning the reality and practicality of some other aspects of the initiatives.

“The Stronach Group’s support of national uniform therapeutic medications and severe penalties for multiple medication violators is consistent with the National HBPA’s often-stated position on these topics,” said Phil Hanrahan, CEO of the NHBPA.

“As we have consistently demonstrated, the devil is in the details with regard to the regulation of medications and violator penalties,” Hanrahan said.  We believe that the NHBPA’s six point plan for medication regulations has been, and continues to be, a valid model for the industry to follow,” stated Hanrahan.

Significant components of the Stronach Group’s integrity initiatives directly align with the NHBPA’s position regarding the regulation of racing medication:

1.      The National HBPA’s focus has always been, and remains, the health and safety of the horse, the safety of the jockey, and the safety of all individuals coming into contact with the horse including grooms, hot walkers, trainers, and veterinarians.

2.      The National HBPA believes a truly independent and transparent Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (“RMTC”) composed of industry stakeholders (including the NHBPA, The Jockey Club, the USTA and TOBA, among others) not dominated by an individual organization, with input from appropriate medical and veterinary professional bodies such as the American Association of Equine Practitioners, must be the final evaluator of relevant medical and veterinary science.

3.      The National HBPA believes that RMTC approved medication rules should be reviewed by the Association of Racing Commissioners International on behalf of state racing commissions, and following an evaluation based on science and medical research with all industry stakeholders being heard, the rules should be adopted or rejected by a majority vote.

4.      The National HBPA contends that uniform medication rules must be based solely on published scientifically determined regulatory thresholds, with published scientifically determined withdrawal time guidelines, all based on and supported by data published in the scientific literature.

5.      The National HBPA believes that RMTC and ISO-17025 accredited laboratories should perform all medication testing.

6.      The National HBPA does not tolerate cheating in this sport.  The NHBPA supports rules wherein repeat offenders of medication rules, after due process, should be severely penalized, including permanent expulsion from the industry.

“What is important is to keep our eye on the prize, developing regulations and reasonable ‘house rules’ that promote safety, integrity in racing and the care of our equine athletes,” stated Robin Richards, the President and Chair of the National HBPA.

“Horsemen welcome Mr. Stronach’s initiatives, however they must be practical enough to implement,” Richards said.

Phil Combest, the President of the Florida HBPA cautioned that the Stronach Group’s initiative may have an unattainable timeframe in many states.

“While there are some positive suggestions in the Stronach Group’s initiatives, the September 1, 2014 deadline is virtually impossible to achieve in Florida,” Combest said.  “The Florida legislature adjourned without taking any action on the legislation that the Florida HBPA, working with The Jockey Club, proposed.  It is unlikely that the Florida Legislature will take this matter up in a special session before September 1, 2014”.

Combest went on to add, “I suspect there are other racing jurisdictions throughout the United States that will face similar hurdles with regard to obtaining legislative approval of thoroughbred racing medication rules before September 1, 2014”.

“On behalf of Florida’s horsewomen and horsemen, the Florida HBPA is committed to working with the management of Gulfstream Park to improve the quality of racing and the care and safety of our horses” said Kent Stirling, the Executive Director of the Florida HBPA and the Chair of the NHBPA’s Medication Committee.”

“There are a significant number of real-world problems associated with the Stronach Group’s central pharmacy concept, and these problems likely will cause radical negative changes in the way veterinary medicine is practiced at the racetrack that could potentially put horses’ lives and health in jeopardy and which may increase the cost of veterinary services to owners,” Stirling said.

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