Thoroughbred Safety CommitteeStuart S. Janney III - Chairman, Thoroughbred Safety Committee
Stuart S. Janney III: Thank you very much, Rick and Alan.Those were two very, very important reports showing terrific progress.
At the Round Table Conference two years ago, I made the point that the Thoroughbred Safety Committee will never be finished and for that reason the stewards of The Jockey Club made it a standing committee of The Jockey Club.
This has required a significant commitment of time and energy by my colleagues on the committee and so I want to thank John Barr, Jimmy Bell, Dr. Larry Bramlage, Steve Duncker — as if he didn’t have enough to do at NYRA — Dell Hancock and Dr. Hiram Polk.
As a group, we continue to meet with a cross-section of industry participants and convene frequently on conference calls. We try to use The Jockey Club’s resources and influence whenever possible to enact changes that we feel are needed for our industry.
We issue recommendations only when we are sure that the science backs them up. Consequently, we rely heavily on the RMTC, especially its Scientific Advisory Committee, and on the good work emanating from the committees formed at our three Welfare and Safety Summits.
We have four new recommendations today that we believe will enhance safety and integrity in our sport.
Copies of these four recommendations in their entirety will be included in the press release that goes out after the conference, and they will also be available on The Jockey Club website.
So that’s my way of telling you that I’m going to give you an abridged version, which I’m sure you are pleased to hear.
First, on the subject of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the Thoroughbred Safety Committee calls for the immediate adoption by the Association of Racing Commissioners International and all United States racing authorities of the RMTC recommendation revising the recommended threshold for bute from 5 micrograms per milliliter to 2 micrograms per milliliter.
And I think that Rick Arthur said it ever so well: This is going to reduce the chances of bute masking injuries at the time of the pre-race exam. Our examining vets have asked for this, the science supports it, and we are jeopardizing the lives and careers of our horses and our jockeys if we don’t make this change.
Second, on the subject of drug testing and laboratory standards, which Alan Foreman talked about, our committee calls for the adoption of the RMTC Equine Drug Testing Standards into the Association of Racing Commissioners International Model Rule book and the participation and adoption of the standards by all United States racing authorities and their associated testing laboratories.
The development of an equine drug testing code of standards for laboratory accreditation and the consolidation of the current industry quality assurance and proficiency programs will be significant achievements in the annals of U.S. equine drug testing.
Third, on the subject ofpre-race inspections,the committee calls for the immediate use of the InCompass pre-race vet exam module and the sharing of inspection information by all racing jurisdictions, regulatory veterinarians and racetracks performing pre-race inspections.
Sharing the results of pre-race inspections among regulatory veterinarians provides valuable insight into the soundness issues and will reduce the risk of injury to horses and riders. There is no good reason not to do this.
Fourth, on the subject of the Rider Accident Database, the Thoroughbred Safety Committee calls for a standing commitment by all racetracks, state racing authorities, horsemen, exercise riders, jockeys and the Jockeys’ Guild to participate in the Rider Accident Database.
The database will provide critical insights into injuries to riders and serve as a guidepost for research designed to reduce such injuries. Again, we strongly advocate 100 percent participation.
We have been encouraged by the response and actions of various commissions, racetracks and organizations that have adopted some or all of the seven committee recommendations that we’ve made previously.
As I noted last year, our recommendation of June 2008 calling for the immediate adoption by all North American racing authorities of the RCI Model Rule on anabolic steroids, which was based on the RMTC recommendations, has effectively eliminated the use of all anabolic steroids in the training and racing of Thoroughbreds in this country. The industry did it in one year, and I think we should be very proud of that fact.
We believe the four recommendations we are announcing today are just as important, and we would once again urge those organizations to act as soon as possible — for the benefit of our athletes and the industry.
Two years ago, I said that the safety committee would focus on Lasix, and we have. It is a topic fraught with emotion and presenting tough practical and scientific issues.
On this stage last year, Louis Romanet, chairman of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, emphasized the importance of international harmonization and challenged us to tighten up our medication rules by taking Lasix out of graded stakes and black-type races.
Since then, the committee has discussed the matter with foreign colleagues in addition to studying domestic trends in the use of Lasix. In early June, we invited a British veterinarian to meet with the committee. He has studied the bleeding issue closely over many years from a number of perspectives — attending vet, racecourse official and jockey. At one point in our meeting he admitted, “The more I learn about Lasix, the less I know.”
So, aside from the fact that it is a very tough issue, what do we know?
We know that most horses bleed to some extent on some occasions.
We know that Lasix stops or lessens bleeding.
We know that Lasix may contribute to the perception that our sport has a drug problem.
We know that Lasix administration and testing is regulated, but we also know that administration of Lasix does not always require that horses bled.
In that regard, we know that there are eight horses which raced on Lasix in the United States and have gone on to win the Dubai World Cup without Lasix.
We know that the growth of international racing is hampered by our race-day use of Lasix, as it sets us apart from the rest of the major racing nations of the world.
We know that over 94% of all starts in North America in 2009 were made with Lasix and 87% of all 2-year-old starts were made with Lasix.
And we know that Lasix improves the race-day performance of most horses; and it is race-day performance that is the foundation on which critical decisions are made in the breed; ranging from the racetrack to the breeding shed.
But there’s much we don’t know.
We don’t know if sending horses that have raced on Lasix to the breeding shed will weaken the breed over time.
We don’t know if the use of Lasix has contributed to the rapid decline in the average number of annual starts that horses are making.
We don’t know if performance is enhanced by reducing bleeding or by the weight loss of horses using Lasix.
And we don’t know if our racing would collapse if we banned the race-day use of Lasix.
Clearly, we need answers to all those questions before we move forward or consider making a recommendation on Lasix.
In that regard, the committee is currently studying foreign and domestic racing data with an epidemiologist to better understand the effect Lasix has on performance.
And we will continue to seek input and guidance from the RMTC’s Scientific Advisory Committee and other experts as we continue our deliberation.
We are proud of the role the committee has played in helping to expedite changes and reforms but it is very clear that no one group can accomplish such change by itself.
The Jockey Club letter to Congress highlighted many of the accomplishments this industry has made on the medication and safety fronts while working together, and it’s an impressive list for an industry that lacks a centralized authority to regulate change.
The ban on anabolic steroids, the Equine Injury Database, the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, the Drug Testing Initiative, the Jockey Health Information System, aftercare programs and several others initiatives listed on the screen behind me are tangible evidence of progress.
If you haven’t seen the letter or would like to re-read it, it can be found on The Jockey Club’s website.
What kind of report should we get for the last three years? A good one, I think, but not perfect.
We responded quickly to our critics. We acted on many fronts to correct problems, and we didn’t waste too much time defending the indefensible. Various parts of the industry have worked together to produce results.
But more needs to be done — tough issues remain and to make the right choices we need more information. Such as:
Progress on these issues will be the platform to build an international sport that commands the public’s attention and draws in new owners and fans.
We believe industry stakeholders, collectively, realize the urgency of enacting reforms and doing so in a timely manner, for the benefit of our athletes, our fans and our sport, and I commend every individual and organization that has played a role in making these changes and respectfully encourage them to consider and implement the recommendations we have made here today.
There are additional and necessary changes on the horizon but we should be proud of our accomplishments to date and continue to work together to do more.
Thank you very much.