By Bill Finley
The recent announcement by the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency (CPMA) that Clenbuterol can no longer be used within 28 days of a horse racing was something trainer Mark Casse had been waiting a long time to hear. The veteran trainer has been the sport’s most outspoken critic of what he saw as the abuse of the drug and the new regulations in Canada will be among the strictest in North American racing. But Casse said that the new rules only go so far in curbing the problem and that the real answer is a total ban of the drug.
“Hopefully, this is the first step of many,” Casse said. “I know there are a lot of things out there in the works. The 28 days is a good start, but I would still like to see it banned. Not only is it being abused at the racetracks, it’s being abused with weanlings and yearlings at the sales. If we can make it zero tolerance then it’s much easier to police.”
Casse argues that Clenbuterol acts like a steroid and artificially puts muscle on a horse. Woodbine and the HBPA of Ontario have also come out for stricter Clenbuterol rules. The CPMA posted the new rules, which will cover racing throughout Canada, on its website Saturday. Previously, Clenbuterol use had to be curtailed seven days before a race.
Casse said he didn’t know if Clenbuterol could act as a performance-enhancing drug if withdrawn 28 days before race.
“I definitely believe if given a week or 14 days before race, it has an effect on the horse,” he said. “You get the type of build-up you get with anabolic steroids. It doesn’t just go away. They build these horses up, make them bigger and stronger and then take them off of it. Do you lose that at 28 days? I’m sure you lose some of it. Do you lose all of it? I’m not sure.”
Casse called on other racing jurisdictions to follow Canada’s lead and change the rules regarding a drug he has called “the most abused drug in our industry.”
“It sure didn’t hurt that Canada did it and I think this is already in the works in other places,” he said. “I think you’ll see this extend to the sales. Obviously, with what is going on in the world today, there are a lot more important things people have to deal with, but I do believe you will see more places cracking down on Clenbuterol.”
In a tweet, Woodbine CEO Jim Lawson called the move to curtail Clenbuterol a “positive direction for horse racing in this country.”
The Ontario horsemen have also been advocating for new Clenbuterol rules.
“The premise of horses receiving medication for anything other than it’s proper therapeutic use is not in the best interests of our industry or in the best interests of the horse,” said Ontario HBPA President Sue Leslie. “While the vast, vast majority of horse people and veterinarians work together to use medication wisely, you always have the outliers. We as an industry can’t afford to let this go on anymore. The way we handle animal welfare and the public image of racing has to improve. To me, this is just one small part of it. There is more that we have to do.”
Leslie said several Woodbine-based horsemen had complained to her about trainers who were abusing the drug in an effort to win races.