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RCI Lowers Bute Threshold

Published: October 22, 2010 7:09 pm ET

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In an effort to improve the pre-race examinations of racehorse, the Board of Directors of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) gave final approval today to lower the allowable level of phenylbutazone.

The board voted 16-0 in favour of lowering the threshold for penalty from 5 micrograms of phenylbutazone (bute) per milliliter of plasma or serum to 2 micrograms, paving the way to improved pre-race examinations conducted by regulatory veterinarians.

RCI President Ed Martin said, “Absent a compelling and convincing medical reason to the contrary, the RCI has concluded that it is in the interest of the horse that the proposed change be adopted.”

He noted that RCI will now review the current penalty guidelines to address concerns that have been raised pertaining to potential first-time violations of the new rule. RCI’s Model Rules Committee, in supporting the change, recommended that jurisdictions work with local horseman’s groups to transition to the new policy and consider a grace period so trainers can adjust.

The change to the Model Rule comes after months of research and discussion, beginning with the RCI Regulatory Veterinarian Committee, who voiced concerns that phenylbutazone could interfere with pre-race examinations due to the possibility of analgesic effects of the drug. RCI asked the Racing and Medication Testing Consortium (RMTC) to review the research on the topic, and the Scientific Advisory Committee of the RMTC voted without objection to support the lowering of the threshold.

The RCI Model Rules Committee had planned to vote on the matter during a spring meeting, but at the request of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) delayed that vote until after the topic could be discussed at their Annual Meeting.

After considering alternate viewpoints expressed at the National HBPA meeting, the RCI Model Rules Committee voted in favour of lowering the threshold in September. The lowered threshold received formal support from groups such as the American Association of Equine Practitioners, The Jockey Club, The Jockeys’ Guild, and the
Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

Because the proposed new racing regulatory compact is not yet in existence, the adoption of the model rule change will occur in different jurisdictions at different times, as individual commissions commence formal rule making on an individual basis.

In related news, the RCI Board of Directors voted 11-1 (4 abstentions) in favour of a change to the Model Rules dealing with fees paid to jockeys of Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, and other flat races. The new rule clarifies when jockey fees are earned by riders, and specifically deals with situations when changes are made to the rider of a horse by an owner, trainer, or the jockey.

For a copy of the RCI Model Rules, click here.


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