The Need for International HarmonizationLouis Romanet - Chairman, International Federation of Horseracing Authorities
William S. Farish: The Romanet family has been at the forefront of Thoroughbred breeding and racing in France for more than 100 years. Louis Romanet retired as director general of France Galop in December 2007, but he still serves as chairman of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities.
He has served in that role since the organization was created in 1994.
His dedication to this sport is unparalleled and I can tell you that he is held in the highest esteem by representatives of racing jurisdictions throughout the world.
Medication is a high priority for the IFHA. Louis has been closely following our endeavors regarding equine welfare, safety and medication in recent years, and is heartened by the progress that he has seen, particularly during the past year.
Thank you, Louis, for making the long trip. It’s good to have you back at the Round Table.
Louis Romanet: Thank you, Will.
Mr. Chairman, Members of The Jockey Club, dear American friends, it is a great honour for me to speak at the Round Table Conference for the second time.
The first time was on August 10, 1997, and the main topic on that day was the formation of the Thoroughbred Industry Alliance.
A lot has happened since, with the NTRA becoming the central national organization for the coordination and development of your sport.
As I said 12 years ago, I have always been convinced that the day the U.S. racing and breeding industry would succeed in creating a strong and efficient national racing structure would be the day when it should dominate other countries in the racing and breeding world and become more competitive in the betting world.
Today, my impression is that a lot has been done since 1997, but that there is still a lot to achieve, especially in the medication area. Before addressing this very important issue for our sport and the need for international harmonisation, I would like to present you the missions and organization of IFHA and the role of the U.S. Jockey Club in our federation.
What are the principle missions of the IFHA? You will find they are a lot of the subjects that have been covered by the previous speakers.
Number one is to coordinate and harmonise the rules of the member countries regarding breeding, racing and wagering. For that purpose, we have created an International Agreement on Breeding, Racing and Wagering, which is available on our website. It includes 29 articles which have been built over the last 40 years. The International Agreement was started by my father and is updated every year.
Number two is to recommend best practices in order to ensure the quality and fairness of racing and to protect the safety and welfare of horses and jockeys.
Number three is to enhance public confidence in the integrity of the sport of racing and of its breeding industry as well.
Number four is to encourage the development of international racing and to facilitate the movement of horses between countries; what my father was calling border-free racing, which is not an easy task, with a lot of rules, regulations, quarantines and other difficulties.
What is the organization of the IFHA? There is a general assembly including all the members. The first meeting of the international council was organized by my father in 1967. There were nine countries around the table. Then, before he retired, he created the federation in 1993 and 47 countries became members. Now we have 57.
The general assembly of the conference meets once a year on the Monday following the Arc de Triomphe. We have a strong executive council that gets nine votes divided between the Asian Racing Federation, Americas — North and South America — and Europe. Each has three votes but we always work towards unanimous agreement.
The Americas are represented by The Jockey Club, by NTRA-Breeders’ Cup, by Woodbine for Canada and by O.S.A.F., which is the association for South America.
The chairman and three vice chairmen are the ones who are controlling the work of the federation. We have a steering committee on non-regulatory matters — promoting, marketing and wagering — but clearly we are a regulatory body and here [on the slide] you can see all the regulatory committees — the Advisory Council on Prohibited Substances, chaired by Professor Alton, who helped me prepare the technical aspects of my presentation today; and then you have the International Movement/Quarantine Problems; the International Grading and Race Planning Advisory Committee, which is a very important committee that replaced the old ICSC committee with the World Rankings Classifications; the Technical Advisory Committee, which updates the international agreement; the Committee for Harmonisation of Racing Rules...and the International Conference for the Safety and Welfare of Jockeys. Plus two other groups which are closely linked to the federation: the International Stud Book Committee, with 66 recognized stud books around the world; and the high level tote group, who is trying to encourage pari-mutuel operators to commingle around the world.
What is the role of the U.S. Jockey Club? A very big one. The U.S. Jockey Club is one of the four founding members of the International Conference and the IFHA. These four founding members are England, Ireland, France and U.S.A. My father was calling them the “Big Four” because everything started from them and then the federation has been growing to our current level of 57 countries.
The Jockey Club is represented through the vice chairman for the Americas, Alan (Marzelli)...and he is a strong vice chairman. The Jockey Club has members on all IFHA committees — Executive Council, Advisory Council on Prohibited Substances, International Movement of Horses Committee. The chairman of IRPAC since October 2007 is Carl Hamilton. He took over from me, which is not an easy job, especially because I’d been chairing ICSC for 15 years and I created IRPAC and I was the first chairman. As I was retiring as an executive from France Galop, I was absolutely convinced that Carl Hamilton was the ideal person to succeed me.
We also have the World Ranking Committee for handicappers, the Technical Advisory Committee and the International Stud Book Committee. The U.S. Jockey Club also plays a very important role as a leading provider for technical services as was mentioned this morning and mentioned yesterday [August 22] in more detail at The Jockey Club’s members’ meeting. The Jockey Club provides top-quality service at a very realistic price. That’s why we encouraged them to develop the world hub by getting all of the information from all around the world in the database of The Jockey Club. They’ve been preparing the ICS booklet for many years and they do a great job for our website.
I want to point out that one of the keys of the success of the racing and breeding industry around the world is leadership.
In my life, I have been lucky to meet many great leaders in your country. And I must say that the leadership of The Jockey Club has been one of the keys to the success of IFHA in difficult times. I always have the support of the U.S. Jockey Club.
Thank you to Dinny Phipps, Alan Marzelli, Carl Hamilton and all their predecessors for their permanent support, with a special thanks to my friend Hans Stahl, who gave great personal input to IFHA. I want also to thank TOBA, Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton for their great involvement and their help in the implementation of graded races and quality control in the U.S.A. and around the world.
I am personally convinced that it is the most important achievement in which I have been involved during my career. It started in 1971 with the European Pattern Races; then the North American Graded Races were introduced in 1973; and I would always remember the first meeting we had with Jacques Wimpfheimer and John Finney at that time to discuss this issue.
Thank you also to NTRA-Breeders’ Cup for its unlimited support in developing international commingling, which has a great potential for growth. We were the first country to commingle with North America for the Breeders’ Cup in 1997 with the help of D.G. Van Clief and Ken Kirchner. We started the first year with a turnover of 900,000 Euros; and last year we had a turnover of 3.8 million Euros, which shows how it can grow.
Now we have to come to the matter of international harmonisation. Why is there a need for international harmonisation?
IFHA does not organize international races, which means that the most important races in the world can be run under different rules while it is not the case for other international sports.
But it is very difficult to promote international races when an interference in a race will result in the disqualification of the winner in France and U.S.A. and when for the same case, he will keep the race in England and Ireland.
As you can see on this chart, there are still a lot of rules and practices to harmonise, which is why we have created a special committee to deal with these issues. We have interference and disqualification of horses — I mentioned the situation we had a race at Ascot in 2006 where a different decision would have been taken on both sides of the Channels. Reciprocation of penalties — we had the Fallon case that gave a bad image of racing when Kieran Fallon couldn’t ride in England but could ride in France and Ireland.
The use of the whip — I remember a conference in Dubai where Lanfranco Dettori was explaining to the stewards, “I’m in the middle of straightening my horse (and) I have to remember in which country I am to know the number of hits I can give to the horse.”
Weighing procedures, allowances for full body protectors differ from one country to another; maximum overweight accepted differ from one country to another. So there is a lot to do during the next three years of my term.
We know that the lack of a centralized regulatory authority makes it difficult for United States to follow up, but you must continue to take steps to harmonise policies, procedures and penalties with the international community.
Why do we need international harmonisation of medication control? We need it because it will provide, first, a level playing field across international boundaries — border-free racing as we say. A positive test in one country must be a positive test in another country.
It will also provide an improvement in consistency of policies and public confidence in horseracing; and it will provide harmonisation of detection sensitivity and drug classification, thus any violations will be much more difficult to defend.
International harmonisation will also reduce inadvertent violations, and facilitate the globalisation of horseracing; and it will minimize bad publicity and embarrassment resulting from medication violations at international races. I had to deal with the announcement to the JRA that Deep Impact was positive because of a medication not properly administered to him by the Japanese vet prior to the race. It is a difficult time for an executive; but it will also increase confidence in commingling, and the Breeders’ Cup example for us is very important.
Where are we now? We have an international agreement, an Article Six on laboratory services that specifies that the aim of signatory countries is that their laboratories should be accredited to ISO/IEC 17025, according to the requirements and guides set out in the ILAC G7 document, accreditation is fundamental as it was already said this morning.
These labs must also take part in inter-laboratory comparisons, like we do it between England, France and Ireland. One year, we have an administration program done by the Irish vet and then it was blind testing from the other labs. By the end, the English lab found two substances, the Irish lab found two substances, and we found three. Then we came back to the Irish vet who made the admission. He said, “It’s impossible, I only gave two.”
We asked him to check and we found out that just before doing his administration program he’s been feeding a horse with some drugs and he had not been cleaning his hands. So we were quite proud of having caught him at the end of the exercise. But this is very important and we do also some blind-testing with Hong Kong and with other countries and we would like to do it with you as much as we can.
So, we were delighted to learn that, on June 18, 2009, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium board of directors decided to go to the right direction and approved new national laboratory standards for testing, the implementation of a laboratory accreditation program and new independent Equine Quality Assurance Program. These are the basic guidelines for implementing top-quality testing, which is absolutely needed for international harmonisation and to implement efficient drug control policies.
What is changing in this world? For many years, the majority of countries have adopted a zero tolerance approach for all drugs...excluding threshold value substances which have been agreed internationally.
What is changing? We have a fundamental change because over the past 30 years or so advances in technology have resulted in over a one million fold increase in drug screening sensitivity...So the increasing sensitivity of analytical techniques allows more and more prohibited substances to be detected at very low levels; but this sensitivity is absolutely necessary for the detection of potent drugs with no place in racing. We go deeper and wider to find new drugs but for some therapeutic substances this increase in the sensitivity of analytical techniques allows for the control of exposure not associated to any effect...
So what is the new philosophy? The new philosophy is that a zero tolerance approach for regulatory control for therapeutic substances is becoming a fading illusion — my father would have been very surprised to hear that declaration — and so the goal for the future integrity of racing is to develop ‘screening limits’ for therapeutic substances.
The goal for the future integrity of racing is to develop ‘screening limits’ for therapeutic substances, based upon a rigorous analysis of their pharmacological and pharmacokinetic properties. These screening limits will then provide the guide for international harmonisation.
Using this approach the nine member nations of the EHSLC have harmonised on the control of 14 therapeutic substances through the limitation of the sensitivity of screening procedures and the racing industry has been advised of detection times for these substances to allow veterinarians to apply good veterinary practice in their use.
Of course, you are the problem there because the use of diuretics such as Lasix in North America falsify all those screening limits and, because of their ditution effect, it imposes to declare any level of medication found and so to maintain zero tolerance. So getting rid of Lasix is a condition for implementing the new system.
Through the IFHA Advisory Council, efforts are underway, to extend the harmonization on a wider international basis...
In April 2009, the Advisory Council moved its annual meeting to Lexington to discuss this initiative for International Harmonisation and to foster collaboration with the U.S.A. and important persons were there — Scot Waterman, Dan Fick and Denis Egan, the chairman of the EHSLC, were invited guests...
Also in July...the IFHA and Advisory Council in conjunction with the EHSLC organised an international meeting in Newmarket to discuss: “Threats, challenges and opportunities we face in policy, testing and subsequently administration relating to doping and medication control.” So we are progressing.
A successful outcome to these negotiations will be harmonisation for the control of specific therapeutic substances by a significant number of the major racing authorities throughout the world, including: Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, OSAF, Scandinavia, Southern Africa and, hopefully, U.S.A.
What is the process?
1. The IFHA Advisory Council on Prohibited Substances and Practices will propose International Screening Limits (ISLs) for essential medications based on current lab practices, knowledge of pharmacokinetics and drug effects, and risk considerations, like welfare of the horse and image of racing.
2. Individual authorities will review these ISLs and associated research data and sign on as signatories to specific ISLs on the list. The ISLs will provide the guide for harmonisation.
3. Administration trials will be shared among signatories to establish unified detection times for the normal use of a range of therapeutics.
4. The Advisory Council will update and fine tune the list periodically, based on new research findings.
But, as it was said earlier today, this will obviously induce a necessary review of your policies on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and corticosteroids which at present do make raceday inspections quite useless as they are performed under pain-killer drugs.
The extensive studies performed within the EHSLC have demonstrated that harmonisation across international boundaries in this area is possible and already effective. We need to grasp the opportunity to build on this very sound foundation and expand this initiative on a wider international front.
I am well known around the world for telling people very frankly what are my feelings on important racing matters.
So after discussing the technical aspects, it is time for me to give you with great respect my personal views on the medication situation in North America.
Every year, when I receive The Jockey Club Fact Book, I immediately look at the diagram of average annual starts per runner and I find out that the decline is still going further down.
In 48 years, between 1960 and 2008, the figure has been going down...by more than 45%, from 11.31 to 6.2.
I know well that some experts will give you additional explanations, like the concentration of horses in big stables or others, but I am absolutely convinced that the number one factor is medication.
I have just one question for you. When do you intend to stop that deflation?
Let’s look at the figures of the number of races in North America for 2008. Here are the global number of races – 55,000; the number of graded (stakes) – a little less than 1%; number of non-graded black type – about 3%; so it (total amount of black type races) is a total of about 4 (percent).
We all know that, without medication, it would be quite an impossible task to fill 55,000 races in U.S.A. and Canada, run mainly on dirt tracks with an average field of more than 8 runners.
As you can see on this chart, in 2008, there were 2,182 black type races in North America, including 505 graded races representing less than 1% of the total number of races.
The TOBA/American Graded Stakes Committee has adopted a drug testing protocol and makes races ineligible for grading if RCI model rules on medication and safety are not adopted.
What IFHA is hoping is that you would start from there by continuing to progressively tighten up your medication rules, firstly for graded races and then for all other black type races, which are together representing the 4% of your races that select the breed.
Evidently, as outlined before, the use of Lasix should ultimately be banned in these races.
I have a dream, as chairman of the International Federation (of Horseracing Authorities)…
My dream is that by the end of my next term, which starts in October 2009 and finishes in October 2012, medication will be prohibited in all graded and black type races run in North and South America.
Yes, you can do it if you want to do it!
...During the last three months, two great events were celebrated:
The first happened 65 years ago when thousands of young Americans gave their life for the freedom of Europe, and the celebration in Normandy, where I live now, was very emotional.
The second one happened 40 years ago when two Americans walked on the moon...
These are two marvelous symbols of what the American people can achieve when they have decided to do it.
Compared to such achievements, the medication issue may look insignificant, but, make no mistake, it is the most important issue for the image of the Thoroughbred industry around the world.
You have already started the process very courageously with the impressive achievements of the Thoroughbred Safety Committee and the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.
I want especially to acknowledge the significant changes in policies in your country since 2008 with the new RCI model rule on anabolic steroids and I have just read that the board of directors of the Breeders’ Cup has been expanding its drug ban policy for the 2009 races.
But how can we still recognize as world champions horses who run under medication? What sport today would accept that situation?
So to conclude, I would like to acknowledge that you have done more in the last 12 months than during the previous 25 years.
So, if all the persons attending the Round Table Conference today come out of this room with the will to prohibit medication in all graded and black type races by the time of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup, I am absolutely convinced that your leadership will transform it into reality.
You may eventually achieve it quicker and avoid the very negative media perception you are facing now.
The International Federation (of Horseracing Authorities) will always be available to help you if you need it and when you want it and I would like to wish you good luck for the future of the American Thoroughbred industry which will be bright if you all together go in the right direction with a strong determination, which appeared to me today by listening to all the presentations.
Thank you to The Jockey Club for inviting me to speak today and thank you for your attention.