June 11, 2010

Contact: Hallie Lewis (859) 224-2848


A recently published report previewing the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) Summer Convention in Minneapolis in late July seemed to indicate that there was little support for proposed changes in the recommended threshold for phenylbutazone due to a lack of participation at the panel session on the topic.

“In fact, quite the opposite is true,” according to Dr. Scot Waterman, executive director of the Racing Medication & Testing Consortium (RMTC). “In April, the RMTC board, which represents 25 racing industry stakeholders and organizations that represent Thoroughbred, Standardbred, American Quarter Horse and Arabian racing, made a recommendation to reduce the threshold for the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) phenylbutazone from 5 micrograms per milliliter to 2 micrograms per milliliter of plasma or serum. Actions by our board of directors reflect the sentiments of our constituency.”

That recommendation was subsequently and unanimously approved by the Drug Testing Standards and Practices (DTSP) committee of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) on May 14, 2010, and placed on the agenda of the Model Rules Committee, which will convene in Denver on Friday, July 23, 2010.

“We are pleased by the unanimous approval of our recommendation by the DTSP and look forward to the model rules process in July,” said Waterman. “The RMTC board approved the reduction in the threshold in April as a result of concerns expressed by the regulatory veterinary community that the current threshold of phenylbutazone may compromise pre-race examinations.”

Dr. Rick Arthur, chairman of the RMTC Scientific Advisory Committee and the equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), notes that there are states already operating with the threshold of 2 micrograms.

“The 2 microgram level was used for years in New York and much of the rest of the U.S.” he said. “Maryland and Virginia still use 2 micrograms for phenylbutazone. Reducing the threshold will improve our regulatory veterinarians’ ability to evaluate soundness in their pre-race exams and is an important step forward in establishing uniform medication rules in the U.S. This also represents a small move toward harmonization with international racing jurisdictions.”

In that same published report, Florida HBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling mentioned a movement in Europe to raise the threshold level to 8 micrograms per milliliter.

“His statement leaves the impression that this change would affect European horses competing in flat racing,” said Waterman. “In fact, the change is in reference to a recent consideration pertaining to NSAIDs by Fédération Equestre Internationale, the international body governing equestrian sports recognized by the International Olympic Committee including jumping, dressage and eventing. A group of senior veterinarians close to the issue have publicly expressed their grave concern about such a change, as did France Galop, and the topic is still being debated. It will be addressed again in August.”

“This industry has made immense progress on many fronts over the past two years to ensure the welfare and safety of our athletes,” Arthur said. “Allowing a Thoroughbred to compete when the pre-race veterinary inspection is compromised by the effects of medications that reduce a veterinarian’s ability to evaluate soundness doesn’t make sense. We endanger horses, riders and the integrity and future of our sport if we do not address this and other medication problems.”

The RMTC consists of 25 racing industry stakeholders and organizations that represent Thoroughbred, Standardbred, American Quarter Horse and Arabian racing. The organization works to develop and promote uniform rules, policies and testing standards at the national level; coordinate research and educational programs that seek to ensure the integrity of racing and the health and welfare of racehorses and participants; and protect the interests of the racing public.

For additional information, visit the RMTC website at or contact Hallie Lewis, RMTC director of communications, at (859) 224-2848.