WITHOUT A DOUBT, the North American industry needs to regulate drug policies and sanctions on a national scale to bring itself in line with horse racing on a global basis.
This model of unity would include penalties, tolerance levels, elimination of all race-day medications and the formation of a national organization analogous to other professional sports such as the NFL or NBA for example or more aptly the global racing organization - Federation Equestre International (FEI).
Currently the 38 individual state agencies operate under the auspices of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI). However, as good as the intentions of the RCI may be they exercise no power in terms of enforcing what they have set out to accomplish.
Part of the problem may stem from the declining condition of the racing industry in North America, and the reluctance of the individual state agencies to impose effective deterrence measures on the trainers as a means of ensuring the sport remains alive. In any case, the penalties unmistakably need to be much stricter and carry with them heavy fines, detention periods and possible jail sentences where infractions are serious, frequent in nature and where they threaten the lives of the horse and the jockey.
The rest of the world runs drug-free on race day and there is no solid evidence to suggest that North American horses can’t either. In fact many North American horses have raced very successfully on tracks in other global jurisdictions where zero-tolerance policies are enforced.
"Anyone who still thinks Lasix is necessary would have a hard time explaining the results of the Dubai World Cup Day races. Fifteen U.S.-based horses competed and, of course, all 15 used Lasix when running in North America. The United Arab Emirates, like every other country in the world not named the United States, does not allow horses to compete on that or any other drug. But our drug dependent thoroughbreds did just fine without their fixes.
"Including Curlin, who was brilliant when winning the Dubai World Cup, three American horses won on the six-race card. Plus, Idiot Proof was second in the Golden Shaheen and Well Armed was third in the Dubai World Cup. It doesn't seem that any of our horses were put at a disadvantage because they didn't have their supposed anti-bleeding drug. Apparently, neither were any of the 68 non-American horses who ran that day at Nad al Sheba Racecourse." 
Today drug use in the US is worse than it has ever been notwithstanding the restrictions and policies of banned substances in place. Moreover, it is the use of race day medication and the perception of lawlessness that has recently brought these issues to the forefront where both the public and racing authorities are now questioning whether the industry has the best interests of the horse at heart. Until there is uniformity in drug regulation the problems will remain widespread and will continue to diminish the integrity of the horse racing industry and the ensuing detriment to the horses, jockeys and fans.
At the root of the problem is the ever-present race-day medication Lasix, a powerful diuretic which scientific studies have revealed is ineffective in the healthy horse – the majority - and other adjunct bleeding medications. Additionally the NSAID's, in particular the ubiquitous Bute, as well as the long-term crippling effects of corticosteroids regulated by thresholds but with lasting effects that mask injury and allow horses to run with underlying injury are at fault. Many believe that the chronic use of these medications have lead to the mounting frailty of the North American Thoroughbred.
Unfortunately there is no single organization in the United States that has the power or authority to enforce standardized drug policies. This includes a large number of associations that are considerably influential: The Jockey Club, RCI, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA), Breeders' Cup Ltd. (BC), or the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association (KTA), for example.
Consensus on unity will be a difficult and tortuous path fraught with ambiguity and resistance on the part of trainers and veterinarians who profit agreeably from prolific exploitation of permissible medications.
However, despite the lamentable status of the fragmented drug regulations that currently prevails there is much anticipation of change. Why? Change is central to salvaging what is left of the nearly irreparable industry as it exists today in North America – unspoken castaways in the global picture of an industry – once revered as the "Sport of Kings" both in North America and abroad. If racing is to remain vibrant in the US and Canada, the industry must cleanse itself of the skeletons that perpetually haunts its closets.
With the March 2011 appeal by the RCI calling for a 5-year phase-out plan that would eradicate the use of drugs and medications in US racing, there may be discernible movement for reform in consequence of the portentous reputation that embraces North American horse racing. Given that the US and Canada are the only major racing countries in the world that allow the use of race day medications, it is very likely that Canada would follow suit. This would bring the whole of North America back on par with the rest of the world.
As RCI’s new chair, William Koester, Chairman of the Ohio State Racing Commission, succinctly calls attention to:
"Today, over 99% of Thoroughbred racehorses and 70% of Standard-bred racehorses have a needle stuck in them 4 hours before a race. That just does not pass the smell test with the public or anyone else except horse trainers who think it is necessary to win a race. I’m sure the decision makes at the time meant well when these drugs were permitted, however this decision has forced our jurisdictions to judge threshold levels as horsemen become more desperate to win races and has given racing a black eye." 
This prominent development speaks volumes for the North American racing industry. All that is required now is support from the many organizations that can enable its execution.
To this end, most of the leading racing associations are in favor of a drug-free racing policy including The Jockey Club, BC, TOBA and Keeneland, among others, while the only non-conforming group appears to be the NTRA. At least, they have not yet taken a position on the RCI proposal.
Incomprehensibly, NTRA’s president and CEO Alex Waldrop vehemently denies there is anything wrong with how the industry deals with drug and medication issues. Waldrop entirely misses the concept: it is race day medication that is the problem that North American horse racing needs to remedy to conform to the rest of the racing world and restore the integrity of its industry.
In contrast the rest of the racing world applauds this development.
"In the last 20 years, the proliferation of medication has become a big issue in American racing, and the impact it has had on contaminating the breed is an even deeper issue," said John Gosden, a trainer based in Europe [England] who previously trained full time in the U.S. and regularly ships runners to prestigious international events.
"The game has become so chemically oriented to the detriment of American racing. When I go to yearling sales, I’m concerned with what the horses have raced on and to what extent their performance was influenced by medication." 
Louis Romanet, chairman of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) adds:
" '. . . . the international community is 'absolutely delighted' with the U.S. opening dialogue on drugs in its races . . . . IFHA prefers the no-medication approach for many reasons, but the first reason is that racing should be without medication on a global level,' Romanet said. 'We have very big competitions throughout the world—like the Breeders’ Cup in the U.S.—and for the organizers of [the Breeders' Cup] to call their event the World Championships while allowing its athletes to compete on medication is absurd. What sport today would call an event its world championships if its athletes were on medication?' " 
Instead, the NTRA along with the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and the Racing Medication Testing Consortium, Inc. (RMTC) have called for an international summit on the issue of race day medication, Exercise-Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH) and horse racing. All for naught no doubt, as it appears to be a venue that will welcome the opinion that race day medications are a viable alternative to "zero-tolerance" policies.
What is their motive when Waldrop claims: "Preserving the welfare of our athletes and the integrity of our competition will always be our foremost goals.? 
It certainly doesn’t seem to be in company with the opinion of the majority, nor does it bode well for NA horse racing or the fact that many believe it is the chronic overuse of therapeutics that is contributing to increasingly more fatal breakdowns and the overall decline in robustness of the NA Thoroughbred.
In any case, however benevolent and progressive the RCI proposal is, there is also the perplexing question of why the lengthy 5-year phase out. Why not one year? A clean and swift break from dependency?
Delaying the implementation of prohibiting race day medications will only muddle the issue further. Five years gives the trainers and regulators of the industry too much time to devise circuitous ways around the system while in the interim horses will continue to suffer at the hands of individuals who should themselves be phased out.
Time will tell whether this is merely a goodwill gesture or an unyielding movement towards reforming North American horse racing.
In the wake of the RCI's five-year drugs phase out proposal – and opportunely only three days prior to North America’s crown jewel in horse racing, The Kentucky Derby – a looming development arose out of Washington.
Concerned about the nation’s "chemical warfare" on the race track, a bi-partisan group of politicians including longtime advocate of federal regulation of racing medication rules, Kentucky Representative Ed Whitfield, filed legislation entitled the "Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act 2011". Its companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Democratic Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico.
The bill is basically an amendment to the 1978 bill of the same name which stipulates that Congress can require simulcast races to be run-drug free. As Joe Drape, a writer for the New York Times who relentlessly pursues the drug scandals in the North American horse racing industry, calls attention to – "simulcast wagering is the financial engine of the pari-mutuel industry. Last year (2010), such wagering accounted for 90 percent of the $11.4 billion wagered on the sport". 
Clearly there is a lot riding on the introduction of this bill.
Drape goes on to say:
"Some of horse racing’s most influential stakeholders have known that the bill was coming and in recent weeks have called for the elimination of all illegal drugs as well as legal ones, like corticosteroids, that can mask an injury.
"Arthur and Staci Hancock, George Strawbridge and Roy and Gretchen Jackson — all prominent owners and breeders — worked behind the scenes on drafting the legislation.
" 'The industry has suffered a loss of confidence and respect with its fans', Hancock, Strawbridge and the Jacksons wrote in a letter in support of the legislation. 'Countless reports of trainers being charged and doping their horses, coupled with the destruction of horses due to horrific injuries on the track cast our sport as something other than beautiful and noble'." 
The reaction to this bill in the North American racing world is at best mixed with the majority strongly opposed to federal intervention. The bill is not for the faint of heart and proposes stiff penalties for both racing personnel and horses alike. If the bill becomes law, the US will reign as the most stringently controlled racing jurisdiction in the world.
The following penalties are proposed.
"Any person who knowingly dopes a horse, or races a horse under the influence of performance enhancing drugs, is subject to civil penalties and suspensions from all activities related to interstate horseracing: 
|1st Violation||> 180 Day Suspension|
|2nd Violation||> 1 Year Suspension|
|3rd Violation||> Permanently Banned|
"A horse that is doped or raced under the influence of a performance enhancing drug is suspended from interstate horseraces:
|1st Violation||> 180 Day Suspension|
|2nd Violation||> 1 Year Suspension|
|3rd Violation||> Permanently Banned|
These are stiff penalties indeed that would be career-ending for many, including the horses whose careers typically only span up to 6 years and much less for those who race in more prestigious races.
The legislation appears to categorize all drugs as performance-enhancing without distinction and will hand out the same punishment regardless of what medication is found. In addition to banning furosemide (Lasix) on race day and creating mandatory federal penalty guidelines for drug violations, it would grant power to the Federal Trade Commission to regulate drug testing of horses and give individuals the right to bring civil actions against racetracks that are not complying with the federal code. 
While this would have the ultimate effect of cleaning up the industry and those who defile it, be that as it may, there are many who are reluctant to support federal legislation of the industry.
"Most of the racing industry has aggressively opposed federal regulation, citing concern over laws that could potentially have a crippling impact on the sport. Critics of the draft legislation said the bill was unlikely to gain much support in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by anti-regulation Republicans, because of the way it would broaden federal power.
" 'This is a serious attack on states’ rights,' said one racing official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 'This is a massive federal intervention, and it would usurp all powers of state racing commissions. The racing commissions are going to fight this tooth-and-nail'." 
Others in the industry cite similar characteristic rationale to distrust congressional oversight.
"The Congressional process is not the best venue to resolve complicated and nuanced issues like medication in racing. In the Congressional spotlight, facts become less important; perception becomes more important.
"In addition, the industry enters this process in fragmented form. There are individuals and organizations that are very sympathetic to federal intervention and others who are strongly opposed.
"Supporters may be frustrated with the prolonged debate on this issue, but we should be cautious about federal intervention. Having represented the horse industry in Washington, D.C. for some time, I am sure of one thing: once Congress begins debate on proposed legislation, it is easy to lose control.
"Amendments can be added to the bill that have nothing to do with the medication issue but are pet projects of others involved in the process. And once there is a federal presence in racing, it is unlikely that Congress would be shy about involving itself again." 
While there is no doubt that participation of the federal government in regulating drug use in North American horse racing could be analogous to opening a "Pandora’s Box" – one need only to look at horse slaughter legislation and the federal agency Bureau of Land Management's roundups of the wild horses and burros – there is clearly a need for reform within the industry.
Like all major sports in the US and elsewhere there is the prerequisite of a powerful, centralized agency that has the authority to sanction drug and mediation laws and regulations. A national organization wherein state agencies retain power yet follow uniform rules of all aspects of horse racing, not just drugs, would serve to unify regulations and penalties while providing a framework similar to the rest of the global racing jurisdictions – an industry-wide consensus and unanimous regulatory enterprise. If control is given to Congress all power will be lost and the industry will be, at times, in the hands of misled Federal impasse.
"But nationwide medication policies can’t be made only with world-beating champions in mind. Rules have to be made that protect the lower ranks, with an eye to prolonging racing careers and keeping races filled. A policy must be made that considers the welfare of all horses, and especially the most vulnerable. Can it be done without medication, the way it is done in other countries? Is a sweeping change possible?" 
Most importantly it is the horse at the center of this melee. But until the industry confronts the medication issue seriously, its endeavor to address equine safety will be sadly imprudent. Racing needs what the late Kent Hollingsworth, longtime editor of The Blood-Horse and contributing columnist for Thoroughbred Times passionately campaigned for over his distinguished career – the call to end all race-day medications.
"Hollingsworth’s mantra for years was 'hay, oats, and water,' a recipe he felt could cure some of racing’s self-imposed ills. Racing Hall of Fame trainer Meshach Tenney agreed. When the trainer of Swaps and Candy Spots returned to racing after a period of retirement in the 1980s, the stewards tried to update him on new medication rules. Meh. 'Do you have any rules on hay and grain?' he growled. 'Because if you don’t, don’t bother me. I’m not using any drugs. I’m not going to and I never have'." 
Horsemanship — not chemistry — is the name of the game.
Part 1: Introduction | Part 2: Historical Aspects | Part 3: The Inception of Drug Testing | Part 4: Drugs and Their Actions | Part 5: Policies and Tactics | Part 6: Class 3 Drugs — Performance Enhancing or Not? | Part 7: Class 4 Drugs — Harmless Therapeutics? | Part 8: The Unclassifieds | Part 9: The Call for Reform | Part 10: Who Rules?