AAEP opposes federal medication bill

by | Jun 6, 2017 | Breaking, Business, National news, Top Stories

Racing at Laurel Park. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

by Frank Vespe

In a statement provided to The Racing Biz Monday evening, the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) has come out against a Congressional bill that would place horse racing medication regulations in the hands of a newly created national governing body.

“While the American Association of Equine Practitioners supports the uniformity of medication rules in U.S. horse racing, which is the one of the chief goals of the Horseracing Integrity Act, our association opposes the newly introduced version of the legislation,” the statement, by AAEP president R. Reynolds Cowles, says.

The AAEP says that it represents nearly 9,300 veterinarians and veterinary students in 61 countries.

The bill, H.R. 2651, was introduced by Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), with one cosponsor, Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), and has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. It would create what it describes as a “private, independent, self-regulatory, non-profit corporation” that would be charged with developing and implementing a medication control program for the Thoroughbred, standardbred, and quarter horse industries. The cost of the so-called Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority would be borne by industry participants.

The bill would also prohibit the use of any medication on raceday. That would ban the use of furosemide, more generally known as Lasix, an anti-bleeding medication in use by the overwhelming majority of Thoroughbreds.

“The AAEP’s current policy on race-day medication administration endorses the use of furosemide to help mitigate the occurrence of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH) in the racehorse,” Cowles’s statement continues. “This policy is based on the overwhelming body of international scientific and clinical evidence. H.R. 2651 seeks to end the administration of furosemide on race day, which conflicts with the AAEP’s long-held position.”

The bill has the support of a coalition of individuals and organizations including the Water Hay Oats Alliance, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, the Jockey Club, and Keeneland Association. Frank Stronach, owner of The Stronach Group, which owns Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, also supports the bill.

But most industry groups, including the two major horsemen’s organizations, are not supportive of the proposal. As a result, it is not expected to gain much traction in Congress.

In his statement, Cowles raised an additional concern about the legislation, which would put the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in the lead in forming the new racing regulatory body.

“The ability of USADA to regulate a sport which has far more participants than any sport they currently oversee remains a concern for the AAEP,” Cowles wrote.

In the meantime, the industry has been striving to implement the so-called national uniform medication program. This program, developed by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) and promulgated by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, is based on four main tenets: a list of controlled therapeutic substances, a multiple medication violation points system, the use of RMTC-accredited labs, and third-party administration of Lasix.

According to the RMTC, 11 states, representing 39 percent of pari-mutuel handle in the U.S., have adopted the program in full. That list includes Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.