By T. D. Thornton
The New York clenbuterol clampdown that was foreshadowed earlier this month by New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) equine medical director Scott Palmer, VMD, has been codified into a series of proposed rule amendments that advanced Nov. 30 by a unanimous 5-0 commission vote.
The new clenbuterol regulations follow a model rule of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) that was approved last August. After publication in the New York State Register and a public commentary period, the commission will have to vote again to formally adopt the changes.
According to a brief written by NYSGC general counsel Edmund Burns that was included in the informational packet for Monday’s meeting, “The proposed rule amendments would require the attending veterinarian to receive written approval of the Commission’s Equine Medical Director of a clenbuterol treatment plan for an identified horse prior to the start of such treatment.
“The proposal would also require horses treated with clenbuterol to be placed on the veterinarian’s list and not be removed until a workout for a regulatory veterinarian is performed and the horse is found to be negative for clenbuterol in blood and urine…
“In addition, horses on the veterinarian’s list for clenbuterol use would be required to submit to periodic tests while on such list to ensure that no more clenbuterol is administered to the horse than necessary to complete the pre-approved treatment regimen and to ensure that muscle-building and fat-reducing effects have dissipated before the horse is removed from the veterinarian’s list.”
Over the course of about two decades, clenbuterol in Thoroughbred racing has devolved from being a legit drug administered to effectively treat airway diseases to a substance of performance-enhancing abuse that is now more often intentionally given to bulk up horses, allowing them to gain a pharmaceutical edge that makes the animals stronger and faster.
Speaking during a Nov. 11 video press conference hosted by stakeholders and regulators who make up an alliance of Mid-Atlantic racing interests, Palmer described the abuse of clenbuterol in this manner as “basically an end-run around on our anabolic steroid ban.”
Beyond the NYSGC, the Maryland Racing Commission, Gulfstream Park, and Oaklawn Park are among the jurisdictions and racetracks that have recently or are in the process of tightening clenbuterol rules to some degree. On May 1, the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency started banning clenbuterol 28 days out from race day at tracks country-wide. Back on Jan. 1, the California Horse Racing Board enacted clenbuterol rules that are similar to New York’s proposal.
Additionally, NYSGC executive director Robert Williams told commissioners Monday that “Pennsylvania has indicated that it will soon commence regulatory change, and it is expected that Delaware, New Jersey and Virginia will also consider the rule proposal.” West Virginia, he said, needs to change its clenbuterol rules via the state legislature.
Also on Monday, the commission unanimously adopted 13 new rules during the monthly meeting, with six pertaining specifically to Thoroughbred racing. They were:
A rule to restrict the administration to Thoroughbred horses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) “such that only one clinical dose may be administered during the week before the horse races. The proposal would limit the administration to the intravenous route, and adopt stricter thresholds for the two most commonly used NSAIDs, flunixin and phenylbutazone, as has been recommended by the RMTC and adopted as a model rule by the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI). The proposal also reduces the list of NSAIDs that could be administered lawfully within one week before the horse races to only three by eliminating the NSAIDs that are not widely used and for which the appropriate lab threshold is unclear.”
A rule requiring trainers to maintain a record of serious bleeding episodes, kept for up to four years, unless given to a subsequent trainer or owner or reported to the NYSGC. The commission will establish a reporting system to collect such information, and a trainer will be permitted to delegate this duty to the treating veterinarian.
A rule to allow a horse eligible for furosemide administrations to be removed from the furosemide list for the limited purpose of running in a race whose conditions forbid the administration of furosemide.
A rule requiring Thoroughbred trainers “to keep a record of equine drug administrations not recorded in veterinary records, including the drug, dose, and date and time of administration.” This requirement will create a record of drugs that are administered after having been dispensed by veterinarians, and will make such records available for inspection for a period of six months.
A rule to revise the Thoroughbred out-of-competition (OOC) sample collection rule, “intended to conform our existing rule to [the ARCI] model rule [that] has received widespread industry support. The new rule will authorize “an effective collection program that protects the constitutional rights of horse owners and trainers when a regulatory jurisdiction seeks to collect” OOC samples.
A rule to “strengthen the health and fitness protections and upgrade the licensing requirements for jockeys, apprentice jockeys, exercise riders and outriders who ride a Thoroughbred horse,” which also mandates a baseline concussion assessment for all licensees who horseback.