Louisiana Racing Commission Switches Course, Goes Back to ARCI Guidelines on Clenbuterol and Depo-Medrol

Sarah Andrew

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Just days after announcing that a set of emergency rules were about to be enacted on June 8 that would loosen drug regulations in the state when it came to numerous medications, the Louisiana Racing Commission held an emergency meeting Tuesday in which it voted to restore the rules that had been governing Clenbuterol and Depo-Medrol. The Louisiana Racing Commission kept in place the new rules that had been enacted that covered dozens of other less controversial medications.

Of the numerous drugs over which regulations were changed that, for the most part, called for shorter withdrawal times and higher dosages of medications, the alterations to the rules on Clenbuterol and Depo-Medrol were considered particularly controversial. Clenbuterol is a bronchodilator that is believed to act like a steroid and build muscle mass. Depo-Medrol is a steroid injected into joints to treat pain and swelling.

Louisiana, which is not under the control of the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA), had been following guidelines put together by the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI). Commission members voted unanimously to return to the ARCI rules, which call for a 14-day withdrawal period for Clenbuterol and a 21-day withdrawal period for Depo-Medrol. Under the proposed rules that were set to be enacted June 8, the withdrawal time for Clenbuterol was to be three days and the withdrawal period for Depo-Medrol was to be reduced to seven days. The changes went against a long-running trend in the sport where regulators, including HISA, had been working to tighten drug rules and to get away from an era where the sport was seen by many as being too lenient when it came to legalized drugs and medications.

“We on the Racing Commission and myself in particular, we are 100 percent for the health and welfare of these beautiful God-given animals,” said Commission member Dr. Larry Findley. “As far as Clenbuterol goes, Clenbuterol is an excellent drug and we all know that it is an excellent drug. But it is abused. So I'd like to make a motion to roll back Clenbuterol to where it was and for Depo to go back to where it was so these two drugs can be looked at and we can take them exactly back to where they were in the beginning.”

There was a severe backlash when the new rules were first announced, which included most corners of the industry, including from Churchill Downs, which owns Fair Grounds, and from several prominent trainers who winter at the Fair Grounds but leave the state once that meet is over.

There was also political pressure to make a change. On June 2, a letter signed by 57 members of the Louisiana Legislature and sent to the Commission implored the Commission to return to the ARCI withdrawal times when it came to Clenbuterol and Depro-Medrol.

“Departing from ARCI standards will make Louisiana an outlier as it relates to racing in America,” the letter read. “This would be very unfortunate given all the progress the entire industry has made to improve the safety of racing and enhance the purse structure at all tracks in the state… By departing from ARCI standards Louisiana will become an 'island' in the national racing community.”

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