The Executive Committee of the United States Trotting Association unanimously voted to reject the Association of Racing Commissioners International proposed model medication rules last Wednesday (Sept. 25). In a letter to RCI President and CEO Ed Martin, USTA President Phil Langley explained the reasons behind the USTA's decision. Below is Langely's letter to Martin.
On Wednesday, the Executive Committee of the United States Trotting Association (USTA) voted unanimously to not support the recent medication proposals advocated by the Association of Racing Commissioners International and the Racing Medication & Testing Consortium. After much study, it is our feeling that those changes address the concerns of Thoroughbred racing and disregard harness racing entirely. The USTA hereby requests leaving the harness rules as they are now constituted.
The USTA feels there are too many differences in the breeds to have rules common to both. Therefore, we encourage separate sets of rules for Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, respectively. We firmly believe that this will work best for all parties.
Obviously, the proposed change in the administration times for both c1enbuterol and corticosteroids brought this situation to a head. In effect, these proposals took the use of those therapeutics away from the Standardbred horsemen while not at all impacting the ability of Thoroughbred horsemen to employ the medications. What strikes us as ironic is that there is no evidence to suggest that Standardbred horsemen are using c1enbuterol for anything other than its intended purpose -as a bronchodilator -while testimony given at the most recent RMTC meeting suggests that Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred horsemen are "stacking" the drug in order to use it as a substitute for anabolic steroids. Your own statement from September 26 indicates the RCI policy recognizes that with regard to c1entbuterol AAEP states "use of these drugs in a limited way can be helpful to the horse but overuse can be detrimental." We agree. Think about what the rule proposal does. It eliminates the limited user and encourages steroidal abuse. Several weeks of intense treatment followed by 14 days off and then followed by several more weeks of intense treatment sounds like abuse to us.
There are many protocols employed by the harness racing industry to ensure integrity that our Thoroughbreds counterparts do not follow. For example, harness racing administers Lasix at a state-supervised location and horses receiving it must stay there or in the paddock until race time. All horses are required to be in the paddock two to four hours before race time and need to exercise on the track for veterinarian observation during that time. In addition, in most jurisdictions horses racing in stakes events need to be in some sort of detention facility from twelve hours to several days before they race. The Thoroughbred industry claims its horses can't tolerate such a disruption in their routines.
Standardbreds are different from Thoroughbreds. Our horses race on a weekly basis, often for many years. Thoroughbreds do not. Catastrophic breakdowns in our sport are exceedingly rare. Sadly, this is not the case in the Thoroughbred industry. Further evidence of the difference in durability is reflected by the fact that on a yearly basis, there are more harness races than Thoroughbred contests, despite the fact that the annual Standardbred foal crop is approximately one-third the size of the yearly Thoroughbred yield.
The USTA is very much in favor of uniform rules, but by breed. We support "out of competition testing", reasonable withdrawal times, the seeking out and elimination of blood doping and EPO, testing to identify improper Shock Wave Therapy use, and developing tests for presently unknown drugs.
Funding sources much larger than available to RMTC have been made available to Dr. Soma in Pennsylvania to accomplish these goals. Harness racing will continue with its other safeguards on Lasix, paddock times, detention barns, etc.
It is our opinion that there are now more separate rules than common ones, so going all the way with different rules for different breeds is a small step.
We fail to understand how a Thoroughbred problem of steroidal abuse can be solved by these rules. The fact they have a negative effect on Standardbreds for no apparent reason only adds to our resolve.
Hopefully we can work together to accomplish "uniform rules" by breed.