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 percent of Thoroughbred racehorses and 70 percent of Standardbred racehorses have a needle stuck in them four 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.
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 16 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.” (RCI)