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Racing vets oppose Barr’s bill to ban equine anti-bleeder drug

The American Association of Equine Practitioners on Tuesday released a statement opposing the “Horseracing Integrity Act,” which would place the regulation of horse racing’s drug rules under federal jurisdiction. This photo shows the 20-horse field at the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 6.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners on Tuesday released a statement opposing the “Horseracing Integrity Act,” which would place the regulation of horse racing’s drug rules under federal jurisdiction. This photo shows the 20-horse field at the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 6.

The veterinarians who treat racehorses are not backing U.S. Rep. Andy Barr’s bill to ban all race-day medications.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners on Tuesday released a statement opposing Barr’s “Horseracing Integrity Act,” which would place the regulation of horse racing’s drug rules under federal jurisdiction. The vets oppose it because it would include a ban on furosemide, known as Lasix or Salix.

The group supports the uniformity of medication rules in U.S. horse racing but its current policy endorses the use of the anti-bleeder medication “to help mitigate the occurrence of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage in the racehorse,” according to the statement. “This policy is based on the overwhelming body of international scientific and clinical evidence.”

The use of Lasix is controversial because some consider it to be performance-enhancing while others say it’s necessary to humanely treat the problem of bleeding in the lungs.

The vets said that they also question the ability of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (known as USADA) to regulate the sport, which includes many more participants than any other sport USADA currently oversees.

Barr, along with co-sponsor Paul Tonko, a Democrat from New York, filed legislation in late May to ban all race-day medication for Thoroughbreds, quarter horses and standardbreds as well as create federal oversight of uniform medication rules across the country. Currently, racing is regulated state by state, although many have adopted similar “model” rules.

Barr and Tonko have filed similar legislation before but this year’s version was endorsed by Frank Stronach, whose Stronach Group owns Santa Anita Park in California, Pimlico Race Course in Maryland and Gulfstream Park in Florida. The bill also is supported by a wide-ranging coalition of the horse industry, including The Jockey Club and Keeneland but other groups, including the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, have not endorsed it.

The American Horse Council said it is reviewing the legislation.

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