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US Leaders Ask Congress To Help Ban Race-Day Drugs

Wednesday, 2nd May 2012

In the US, 8 leading racing industry participants all told a Congressional sub-committee "they don't believe race-day medication has a place in thoroughbred racing" reported bloodhorse.com. The witnesses included high-profile owners George Strawbridge, Gretchen Jackson & Arthur Hancock, retired jockey-turned-broadcaster jockey Gary Stevens, trainers Kenny McPeek & Glenn Thompson, plus veterinarians Dr Kate Papp & Dr Gregory Ferraro. Gretchen Jackson (who owned Gr1 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro) emphasised: "It's one thing to use drugs therapeutically after a race, but another thing to use them to mask (other drugs) during a race." Stevens noted: "If there is no race-day medication, it would solve a lot of problems in racing." And Strawbridge declared bluntly: "We must try to change the status quo & I believe the only way to do this is to have a national governing body that has uniform rules & uniform significant penalties for those disobeying these rules. Perhaps the federal government would mandate this. If the federal government does not affect change, change will not occur as our present organisations are ineffective or unwilling to seek reform. Our alphabet organisations have only produced a Tower Of Babel." Papp revealed: "It is not uncommon for me to see on race day a practitioner enter a stall in one of the private barns or the detention barn with 3 to 10 syringes full of medication to be administered & not be questioned by anyone. In the meantime, there is hardly any surveillance of the horses that are permanently stabled on the racetrack & trainer administration of drugs is ubiquitous. Not a week passes where I am not asked by an individual on the track or at the training centre about a new product or a new treatment they have heard about to make their horses run better & if I can obtain it for them." And Ferraro said he once supported the legal use of drugs like Lasix & Bute, but has changed his mind, admitting: "In hindsight, I was incorrect. These drugs have not served the industry or the horses well. The industry made a bad decision 40 years ago to go down the path of permissible medication." In response, Committee chairman Joe Pitts said Congress "may have to step in to offer a strong national framework" for horse racing regulation, but "stopped short of offering a plan". Committee member Michael Burgess added: "If you can get racing commissions or your professional organisations to deal with this, you are so much better off doing that than asking Congress to get involved." And Committee member Ed Whitfield warned "I don't want to see the federal government involved in it either", but noted "industry efforts on national regulation have repeatedly failed". Whitfield is a sponsor of the Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act "which would alter the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 to ban performance-enhancing drugs on race-day & enact harsher penalties for offenders".

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