Sunday, May 9, 2010

Everything You Wanted to Know About Drug Testing

But didn’t know where to look.

For years, racing fans have demanded disclosure and transparency regarding drug testing results, violations by trainers and the types of drugs administered to the thoroughbreds that they bet upon. They want to know in simple terms what a medication is used for, why it's being given and if that medication will affect the outcome of a race. Oh, and how beneficial is that drug for the horse anyway?

Recently, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) has responded to these concerns and created the Recent Rulings Database on their website ( This database includes a collection of recent drug-related rulings dating back to August 2009 and can be accessed by the public.
According to the website, the database can be sorted by trainer, date, state or violation. It also includes the track, suspension, fine, horse's name and breed when those facts are made available in the official rulings. Perhaps the most unique aspect of this database is that it provides information on the possible uses and effects of a particular drug in the horse. These drug descriptions will help clarify the difference between medication management mistakes and more serious drug violations.

This database is a good start in an effort to answer the questions of racing fans and to provide crucial knowledge for not only the horseplayer, but for trainers, owners and breeders. The problem of drug usage in horse racing has been widespread for decades, but progress is finally happening, albeit slowly. The California Horse Racing Board shook up the racing world when they revised the medication rules and got tough on violators. Other tracks followed suit, organizations and committees were formed, but until the database was created, the average racing fan had to rely on hit-or-miss reporting by the major racing websites.

The RMTC website also includes advisement on withdrawal times from drugs, model rules and penalty designations for the racing community to follow. Unfortunately, these are only guidelines and each racing jurisdiction has their own rules and penalties. What is legal in one State is not accepted in another. Trainers have a real dilemma on their hands when they want to ship horses for a race, especially if said trainer or the owner decides to make a last minute entry. This situation has a two fold effect. The trainers must be cautious due to various and unequal testing procedures at each track. They risk fines and bad publicity for minute traces that may show up in one State's test, but not another. Therefore, the tracks lose potential entries and thus, betting interests. Which, of course, equals money. So, unregulated medication rules and penalties equal loss of revenue.

The powers that be like to pretend the medication issue isn't that simple or that the problem isn't that widespread, but the boards of each racing jurisdiction need to unite if any type of real remedy to the multiple issues are to be solved. Egos, indecisive leadership, and kowtowing to special interests need to be put aside in favor of working together. If an individual or group can't do that, then they should step aside for the people who are willing to tackle the situations. With today's technology there is no excuse for meetings not to be held. If Europe, Japan, Dubai, South Africa and the rest of the world can overcome language barriers and their own agendas to create an international standard for medication usage and testing, why can't a few racing jurisdictions in the United States? After all, this country is named the United States for a reason.