Racing Medication and Testing ConsortiumAlan Foreman - Chairman & CEO, Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association
Ogden Mills Phipps: There is not a Round Table topic that is more important - or has been addressed more often - than medication. And that's the way it should be - until this industry gets it right.
Without complete consumer confidence in the integrity of our sport, we have no business.
It is encouraging to see that we have made some exceptional strides over the past few years in the medication area, thanks to the creation, launch and widespread support of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium. But we still have a long way to go.
Here today to tell us more about the recent progress of the RMTC is the vice-chairman of the consortium, Alan Foreman.
Alan Foreman: Thank you very much, Dinny. It is an honor to be participating in this program this morning. Good morning, everyone.
I am privileged to report to you today on the progress of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium. In a nutshell, I can report with great confidence that the progress of the consortium has been nothing short of remarkable and its achievements unprecedented.
To fully appreciate the success of the consortium to date, and place its achievements in proper perspective, a little history is necessary.
For more than 50 years, our industry has struggled with attempts to achieve uniformity, most notably in the area of medication use and drug testing. But each state legislature and racing commission has decided for itself what is best for its own state's racing industry and each has decided what is best for its stakeholders and the betting public.
What has evolved has been a myriad of rules, regulations, protocols and policies, with major racing states operating at opposite ends of the medication spectrum. It has fostered an undercurrent that our sport lacks the integrity necessary to engender the necessary public confidence that is the foundation of our business.
Repeated efforts within our industry over the years to bring about consensus on medication failed for one or more reasons.
In 1991, for example, The Jockey Club commissioned a study entitled "Building a World Class Drug Detection System for the Racing Industry." The so-called "McKinsey Report" was reported at this conference. Regrettably, the McKinsey blueprint was not uniformly adopted and it gathered dust on bookshelves as the years passed.
Hope was renewed when the NTRA established a Racing Integrity and Drug Testing Task Force, which in 1998 commissioned its own comprehensive survey of the country's drug testing programs and practices and undertook a first-ever "Supertest" program to once again scrutinize samples previously cleared from our laboratories looking for performance enhancing substances.
The report of the Task Force, issued at this Round Table in 1991, reported that 98.3 percent of the samples subjected to the Supertest were free of Class 1, 2 and 3 drugs, and of the 1.7 percent positive tests, 82 percent were for commonly used therapeutic drugs. The Task Force also issued recommendations going forward from its analysis of industry rules and practices for national rules and policies.
Following release of the Task Force Report, the industries two major horsemen's organizations, the THA and HBPA, issued reports with their own recommendations for a national uniform medication program for racing.
Seizing on the growing interest in medication uniformity, the American Association of Equine Practitioners invited every major stakeholder in racing to a facilitated summit in Tucson, Arizona, in December 2001, at which the core principals for a uniform medication policy were debated and adopted and a commitment received from each organization to create a mechanism to develop a uniform medication policy for racing and to establish and fund research priorities. Thus was born the Racing and Medication Testing Consortium.
The consortium is now almost three years old. Twenty-six organizations helped to create the consortium, representing every segment of the industry, and each one has stayed at the table and has played a valuable role. Each participant has put aside his or her own biases and pre-conceived notions and, in a manner respectful of each other and, more importantly, understanding the need for our industry to be above reproach, have dedicated themselves to achieving a policy that is tough but fair, in the best interests of the welfare of the horse and necessary to maintain public confidence in our sport.
The result has been the adoption of a carefully crafted, scientifically supported national uniform policy. I am pleased to report to you today that as a result of the efforts of the consortium, and the cooperation of all of the industry stakeholders and our state regulators, 26 states have either fully adopted or are in the process of adopting, the consortium's proposed uniform medication rules, the latest being Kentucky just last week. Ladies and gentlemen, this is simply astonishing and unprecedented.
I have been involved in racing for almost 30 years of my professional life and have worked with the medication issue for almost 25 of those years. I'm sure many of you have wrestled with this issue for far longer than I. I want to ask you all a question:
Did you realistically think that you would ever see the day when New York, Kentucky, Florida, California, Maryland, Illinois and New Jersey would all play by the same medication rules?
Well, that day is here and that day is today. To give you just one example of the impact of this uniformity, from this time forward, our Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup races will all run under the same medication rules!
This uniform effort, by the way, is an ongoing process. Just last month, the Joint Model Rules Committees of RCI and NAPRA approved the consortium's recommendations calling for stricter penalties for violations resulting from the use of drugs that have no purpose being in a racehorse or whose presence threaten the integrity of the race. Penalties have been extended to cover culpable veterinarians and any other licensed personnel found to be involved in those drug administrations. Repeat offenders face significant fines and possible expulsion from our sport. And, owners who tolerate illegal drugs in their horses face disciplinary action and the suspension of their horses from competition. Make no mistake about it; this is a serious and concerted effort to deter anyone using the medication route to undermine our great sport.
The consortium is not just about uniform rules. Research is a major component of the consortium and so is racetrack security. To date, it has funded over $700,000 of research projects aimed at developing tests for prohibited and exotic drugs.
On the security front, the Big Event Team, which consists of seasoned backstretch security agents, has been present for all of the Triple Crown races and several others in the past few months. And they will be here this week for the Travers.
And, while it is not directly responsible, the work of the consortium, and the industry's revitalized focus on medication integrity, is evident in the establishment of detention barns recently at some of our tracks, most notably here in New York, and with increased focus on blood-gas (TCO2) testing.
There is so much more work to be done. While we have moved to ensure that our laboratories use the most advanced testing equipment and protocols available, we can do much better. We need to ensure that all of our laboratories have the capabilities, and the means, to be able to test for as many prohibited drugs as possible. We need to continue our research efforts where appropriate. We want to be able to limit drug use on the racetrack to only those drugs recognized for their therapeutic benefit to the horse and get rid of all others. We want to be able to recommend withdrawal time guidelines for the recognized therapeutic drugs so that positive tests can be avoided. We want to identify those drugs for which a no-effect threshold can be established and commission the research to determine those thresholds. Someday, it may be possible to establish our own super-laboratories to which all samples will be sent for vigorous supertesting. Most importantly, we want to ensure that the consortium has the means to continue its vital work.
How do we accomplish that goal?
In November 2001, our organization - the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association - issued a report containing a number of recommendations for a comprehensive drug testing, medication and research program; among them, the creation of a national drug testing and research consortium to be funded by a per start fee for every Thoroughbred, harness and Quarter Horse starter.
We have been pleased that most, if not all, of the recommendations contained in our report have been adopted by the consortium. Indeed, the per-start fee recommendation has been adopted as a primary funding source for the consortium to continue its vital work on behalf of the industry. Until now, the consortium has been funded by voluntary contributions from some of the industry's non-profit organizations and conscientious stakeholders. It is now time for the horsemen to step to the plate!
For the organization that I lead, as the one who has promoted the per-start fee, it is time to walk the walk. I am pleased to announce that the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, through our respective organizations of owners who race at these tracks on the slide [Aqueduct, Arlington, Belmont Park, Delaware Park, Hawthorne, Laurel Park, Meadowlands, Monmouth Park, Pimlico, Saratoga, Timonium] is once again taking a leadership role on medication by distributing to the consortium $250,000 in per-start fees to support the work of the consortium. I want to also recognize the horsemen at Calder and Gulfstream who are paying per-start fees through the Florida HBPA.
In making this initial contribution, we are mindful of the success of the Graded Stakes Committee's Supertest Program, where all of the samples from our graded races are subject to supertests. We think it just as important that the public have confidence that our overnight races are subject to similar extensive scrutiny. Accordingly, we are specifically requesting that the consortium return a significant portion of our per-start fee contributions to our respective laboratories to conduct random supertesting of samples collected from overnight races.
We urge every other industry stakeholder - horsemen, jockeys, tracks, breeders, veterinarians and organizations - to now demonstrate their support for the consortium's efforts. We can best demonstrate racing's commitment to ensuring that our sport is above reproach, by committing some of our resources to those committed to its integrity.
I want to close with one last thought, because when we talk about integrity, the focus is always on the cheater, as it must be.
But there is another side to integrity. In its groundbreaking work on uniform medication rules, the Mid-Atlantic regulators compiled a list of every positive test called in the region, from New York to Virginia, for eight years - from 1997 through 2004. The results were highly encouraging.
Roughly 114,000 Thoroughbred races were run during that period. Roughly 229,000 samples were tested - harness and Thoroughbred. Of those samples tested, 1,872 were called positive, or .0082 percent - this in a region where the largest concentration of racing in the United States is conducted on a daily basis and where the industry's most proficient testing is performed. Of the positives called, only a few were for drugs that have no business being in a racehorse. The vast majority were commonly used therapeutic drugs and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs resulting from treatment errors or barn mistakes.
This impressive data underscores the notion that, without question, the vast supermajority of our horsemen are honest, hardworking and dedicated to engendering public confidence in our sport by being above reproach and they deserve to be respected and applauded for it.
Our industry must never waiver in its commitment to fair and honest racing and the need to ensure that our sport is above reproach. We are far from perfection and we must always strive to do better. We need to be constantly vigilant, technologically proficient and ever-mindful that the most important stakeholder in our sport is the customer - the fan we so covet. For if the customer ever loses confidence in the integrity of our sport - if the customer believes that our sport is compromised by drugs - we will fail. In the consortium, with the industry behind it and if we do it right, we can separate our sport from every other sport. The challenge, and the opportunity, is ours.
Ogden Mills Phipps: Thank you, Alan. You bring great news to the Round Table and we are grateful to you today and we thank Dan Fick, the chairman of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, and also Dr. Scot Waterman, its executive director.