Update: USTA Rejects RCI Med. Rules

Published: September 26, 2013 01:26 pm EDT

The Executive Committee of the United States Trotting Association unanimously voted to reject The Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) proposed model medication rules on Wednesday.

In a separate unanimous vote, the committee agreed that the USTA will immediately withdraw its membership from the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, Inc. (RMTC).

“We have carefully considered the RCI proposals and have come to the conclusion that the physical characteristics of the breeds are significantly different. Trying to fit them together makes little sense,” said USTA President Phil Langley. “We believe both breeds, standardbreds and thoroughbreds, will benefit from having rules concentrated solely on their needs.

“Many safeguards now in use in harness racing would never be acceptable to the more high-strung thoroughbreds, including Lasix barns, two-to-four-hour paddock times and racing on a weekly basis,” added Langley. “On the other hand, both the frequency that standardbreds race and the lack of catastrophic breakdowns in harness racing make the utilization of some therapeutic medications much different between the breeds.”

As a result, the USTA, with the support of Harness Tracks of America (HTA), will ask RCI to maintain the current rules in effect for standardbreds instead of having one set of model rules for two breeds with significantly different requirements.

“After studying these proposed rule changes, it is apparent to us that they are entirely focused on the needs of thoroughbreds with little consideration for standardbreds,” concluded Langley.

The USTA supports uniform medical medication policies, but thinks that they need to be customized for each breed.

“We want to make it very clear the USTA supports uniform rules,” said Langley, “but we strongly believe they should be by breed. Things like blood doping, out-of-competition testing, EPO and Shock Wave Therapy are high on the list of USTA research projects.”

In other action, it was determined that the USTA will immediately withdraw from RMTC. During the last 10 years, the harness racing industry has supported the RMTC with more than $1-million in contributions.

“While we applaud the intentions of the RMTC, we also feel that their efforts concentrate on the thoroughbreds with little consideration for standardbreds,” explained Langley. “We believe that the money can be better spent on research and testing in areas more concentrated on harness racing.”

Both RCI and RMTC issued statements in reaction to the USTA's announcement.

Statement by Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) Chairman Alex Waldrop on the decision by the United States Trotting Association (USTA) to reject the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) model medication rules and withdraw from the RMTC

We are disappointed with the decision by the USTA to reject the RCI model rules and withdraw from the RMTC. The USTA was among the 24 organizations that actively participated in a multi-year scientific research program that led the horse racing industry to the establishment of uniform national model rules for medication, penalties and testing.

In particular, the USTA objected to RMTC recommendations for the use of clenbuterol and corticosteroids, but these recommendations are the result of scientific research and ensure these medications cannot be abused in any way. The scientific research, as well as current regulations in California, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and other multi-breed jurisdictions, demonstrate that the uniform rules recommended by the RMTC and adopted by the RCI are the most effective way to ensure the safety of all race horses and the integrity of the sport, regardless of breed.

The RMTC will not deviate from this path for any reasons not supported by the science.

Official Statement from Statement from Edward Martin, President and CEO, The Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI), on Recent Decisions by the United States Trotting Association

RCI continues to rely on the scientific review process at the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium involving key regulatory advisors who are actively involved with the regulation of both Standardbred and Thoroughbred racing as well as the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP). Unfortunately the United States Trotting Association has removed itself from discussions involving those recommendations before they are sent to the RCI.

We understand that there is a debate over Clenbuterol, but note that there are alternatives to treat a Standardbred horse post-race that will better accommodate the Standardbred business model without creating a back door to steroidal-type effects. We have also heard that some are advocating a liberalization of the recommended policy pertaining to corticosteroid use. The AAEP has advised that the use of these drugs in a limited way can be helpful to the horse but the overuse may be detrimental. The policy we have recommended recognizes this.

Empire State Harness Horsemen's Alliance Objects Implementation Of Proposed Legislation

Officials with the Empire State Harness Horsemen's Alliance have submitted a letter to John Googas of the New York State Gaming Commission stating that along with the USTA, the ESHHA is against the implementation of the Association of Racing Commissioners International's (RCI) proposed model medication rules.

An excerpt of the letter states, "the new and equally ill-advised proposed limitation on the use of therapeutic medications, permitting no more than twenty-four (24) specified therapeutic drugs for administration to racehorses, sets up the distinct possibility that trainers attempting to maintain proper husbandry, not performance enhancement, for those horses entrusted into their care, custody and control, will be ensnared by the highly restrictive (24 drug) treatment scheme."

To view a copy of the letter, click here.

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