January 25, 2013

Contact: Hallie Lewis (859) 224-2848


A recent Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) review of violation records from nine states that lowered their phenylbutazone threshold from 5 micograms per milliliter of plasma to the RMTC-recommended level of 2 micrograms per milliliter of plasma reveals that fewer overages of the medication are occurring at the lower threshold.

Phenylbutazone is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. In most states, one non-steroidal anti-inflammatory may be administered 24 hours prior to racing to decrease inflammation and provide pain relief. In 2009, the phenylbutazone threshold was brought before the RMTC board by regulatory veterinarians who expressed concern that the medication, at the 5 microgram per milliliter threshold, could be hiding lameness and compromising pre-race examinations.

The regulatory veterinarians’ concerns were confirmed by Dr. Larry Soma at the University of Pennsylvania. His 2010 review of 120 research papers on phenylbutazone, which was published in 2012, confirmed that lameness and inflammation could be altered by the presence of phenylbutazone at the 5 micrograms threshold at 24 hours. In response, the RMTC lowered the phenylbutazone threshold to 2 micrograms in 2010.

The Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) provided records from the racing commissions of California, Florida, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia – all of which have lowered their phenylbutazone threshold from 5 micrograms to 2 micrograms in recent years. The New Jersey Racing Commission and the Indiana Horse Racing Commission provided records directly to the RMTC.

The records revealed that in the nine states, trainers had amassed a total of 41 phenylbutazone threshold violations in the six months of racing prior to enacting the lower threshold. The highest reported value with the higher threshold was over 29 micrograms per milliliter of plasma.

In those same states, in the six months of racing after the lower threshold was adopted, there were a total of 23 phenylbutazone threshold violations. The highest reported value under the lower threshold was just over 8 micrograms.

RMTC Executive Director and COO Dr. Dionne Benson believes that the data clearly demonstrates the 2 microgram threshold is a workable threshold for the horsemen.

“Trainers saw a 44% decrease in violations and regulatory veterinarians are better able to evaluate the horses,” she said. “Overall, this change improves the safety and welfare of horses and jockeys.”

To date, there are 15 racing U.S. jurisdictions that have adopted a 2 microgram threshold.

The data for Kentucky, Arkansas, Illinois and Texas was not included as those jurisdictions have not yet held six months of racing under the new threshold.

The remaining jurisdictions not represented in the RMTC’s review had an original threshold which was lower (2.5 micrograms in Delaware and 2 micrograms in Maryland).

“Conducting research and then developing and recommending uniform policies have been integral components of the RMTC mission since it was established,” Benson said. “The findings from this review prove that our system is working and that we can continue to take steps to ensure the health and welfare of the racehorse and the integrity of our sport.”

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.