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, 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.”
RCI president Ed Martin responded as follows to the USTA action:
"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. (USTA & RCI)