by SID GUSTAFSON
Cross-posted from The Rail — The New York Times
On-track pharmacies have the potential to restore racing integrity in America. The on-track pharmacy would be the only place drugs are allowed on the racetrack.
The attending veterinarian examines a horse and prescribes a treatment.
If medication is determined to be part of the therapy, the veterinarian submits the horse’s name, the diagnosis and requested medication to the racing regulatory body.
The pharmacist and the regulatory veterinarian evaluate the request and dispense the medication.
Everything is recorded; drug, dosage, frequency of administration, expiration date, lot number, brand name, etc.
Veterinarians would not be allowed to drive around the backside with truckloads of drugs, as this current practice has led to indiscriminate inappropriate treatments that have led to breakdowns and doping problems. On-track pharmacies would restore the medication protocols to be decided by veterinarians rather than trainers.
Currently, trainers in large part decide what drugs their horses receive. With an on-track pharmacy policy in place, if a trainer thinks his or her horse needs a certain medication, a veterinarian would be required to assess the horse, arrive at a diagnosis, and then request the medication from the pharmacy, where further vetting would occur.
Rather than being utilized as medication technicians, as attending veterinarians currently are, they would again become doctors practicing veterinary medicine. Instead of being paid for drugs they administer, horse doctors would again be compensated for their medical evaluation of the patient.
The pharmacy is the only place medication could be stored or dispensed on the racetrack, other than with the emergency trauma and colic responders.
Pharmaceutical manipulation to enhance performance would be eliminated.
No drugs would be allowed to come into the track through any other venue.
Every horse would be medicated via this process, with the exception of emergency treatments.
This is the model in Hong Kong, where the breakdown rate is one of the lowest in the world.
This policy effectively prevents doping while providing horses with the necessary therapeutic medications to train and race.
Every treatment is transparent.
The bettors, trainers, owners, and all others are made aware of every treatment for every horse. The result is racing with increased integrity, increased safety, increased public support and increased handle.
Horsemen and veterinarians [in the U.S.] will oppose this, of course, as it is inconvenient, restrictive, and allows total transparency. On-track pharmacies have the potential, nonetheless, to manage doping and restrict the pharmaceutical manipulation of performance.
• Read full report »
Sid Gustafson, D.V.M., is a novelist and equine veterinarian specializing in thoroughbred sports medicine and equine behavior. He currently practices regulatory veterinary medicine, representing the safety and welfare of thoroughbred racehorses.