Into the valley of death rode the “Lasix 600.” That was the number of stakeholders who originally supported the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association’s open letter to oppose the proposed ban on race-day Lasix.
The number in opposition to a consortium of major racetracks in the US to ban Lasix, rose to 850 in the 10 days since writing the open letter on Sept. 20.
These industry stakeholders apparently would rather trainers use needles over knowledge to condition and race Thoroughbreds.
The breeders are responsible, too, as they allowed themselves to breed for bleeders instead of against them.
The American public will not renew its license to sanction the sport if race-day medication and equine death in races continue.
On the other hand, the Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978 says racetracks must contract with organizations comprised of such horse people to conduct simulcast wagering, and that is where the money is, not on track.
Therefore, the industry will face an impasse with the 600, 850, or however many eventual signatory supporters of the plan. Supporters of the NHBPA’s position will force Thoroughbred horseracing into the valley of death by keeping the drug-addled sport as is.
Maybe these industry stakeholders are tone deaf or maybe they do not have the skill to conduct racing without drugs. Maybe both.
The industry itself is so desperate for reform it has reached out to the Federal government for an intervention. Never before has any industry lobbied for governmental controls.
The NHBPA open letter follows:
LEXINGTON, KY (Friday, Sept. 20, 2019) – A unified industry group believes banning Lasix will adversely impact the health and welfare of racehorses, as well as the strength of our industry. On September 20, a letter (posted below) was released with more than 600 signatures in support of protecting Lasix as a choice for horsemen and veterinarians to administer on race-day for the well-being of equine and human athletes. The initial round of signatures from racing stakeholders features individuals from across the industry, and since the initial announcement the list has grown to more than 850. Signatures will continue to be collected going forward. Click here to be added to the list.
Public Letter on Stance to NOT Eliminate the Choice to Administer Lasix on Race Day
A recent open letter proclaimed that “horse racing is at a pivotal moment in its long history in the United States.” On this we agree. We also agree all of us love and cherish the equine athletes upon which our industry is built. To that end we believe in practicing the highest standards of horsemanship, and we continually work to improve the care, health and safety of our thoroughbred racehorses.
In that regard, we support horsemen and our veterinarians having the continued option to run a horse with a race-day administration of the therapeutic and protective medication furosemide (Lasix).
We, too, are ready for change and will eagerly embrace change if the alterations are done for the greater good of equine health and welfare. We are committed to reforms emphasizing transparency and developments that will address misunderstandings from those in the non-racing public as well as ensuring our horses are treated with the highest degree of care. The eradication of our choice to administer race-day Lasix will not do any of those things.
It is our belief that banning Lasix will adversely impact the health and welfare of our racehorses as well as the strength of our industry. Research also proves an increased number of horses will bleed significantly out of their nostrils, or into in their lungs, and an increased number will die.
We understand and agree things can and should be done to improve the safety and welfare of our equine athletes. It is just as important to understand what is NOT causing catastrophic injuries, as it is understanding the underlying causes. Many continue to claim Lasix will interfere with post-race drug testing due to dilution, but this argument has long been disproven. Lasix is a short-acting diuretic and the dilution effect is gone in two hours. However, the tightly regulated administration of Lasix is required four hours before a race. Thus, Lasix has no ability to interfere with blood or urine testing after a race.
No one takes our stance on this position casually, but we believe we must not be led down a path created by perception and not facts. For this reason we must stand for what is in the best interest and safety for our equine and human athletes.
The NHBPA says it is only following the advice of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. Trainers say they treat their horses as they would their children. I do not think trainers load up their kids with a kitchen sink full of drugs before a little league game. I doubt that veterinarians would either.
However, ask a vet and they will tell you that trainers order up the medications they want for each horse and the vets just administer them. Then again, paid per treatment is a racetrack vets bread and butter.
The following statement is from AAEP President Dr. Jeff Berk about the Prohibition of Race-Day Furosemide (Lasix) by U.S. Racing Coalition
Apr 19, 2019
“Horse racing in the U.S. faces significant challenges to its long-term health. The leadership of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) reviews with interest the announcement by a cohort of Thoroughbred racing organizations that they will ban the use of furosemide in 2-year-old racing in 2020 and graded stakes races in 2021. The landscape is changing.
“As Doctors of Veterinary Medicine, science and evidence-based discovery is our foundation, and as such, the AAEP’s long-standing racehorse medication policy has supported the administration of furosemide on race day to mitigate the adverse effects of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH).
“The AAEP also is committed to funding research into alternative EIPH management strategies which would eliminate the need to administer furosemide on race day. The proposed phase-out of the medication’s use beginning at many Thoroughbred racetracks in 2020 emphasizes the urgent need for continued research into new methods for mitigating EIPH.
“Regarding the daily care of horses adversely affected by EIPH, the AAEP urges a strong partnership between owners, trainers and veterinarians in order to optimally manage the syndrome and make decisions in the best interest of the health and welfare of the horse.”
A racetrack vet from Pennsylvania tells a different story to her representative in congress.
To Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa. a co-sponsor of the #HorseRacingIntegrity bill:
“For decades, the horse racing industry has promised to better regulate the medications given to horses. There have been steps forward & back, but little lasting change,” said Dr. Kathryn Papp, DVM in 2014.
On racehorse ‘trainers’ – “They don’t want to spend the money to know what’s wrong. They just want you to fix it. I’d be required to go to the barn, look at the horse & administer the medications or substances of treatments that were requested.”
In further support of the NHBPA’s position is a link to LasixEIPHfacts.com. Its homepage statement reads as follows.
Who is looking out for the health and welfare of the horse?
Lasix has been extensively researched, probably more than any other medication for horses. It does not enhance performance, but allows horses to perform to their natural abilities. As in the entire history of the relationship of man and horse, the animal is best served when we provide the best possible care available, and in the case of horse racing, this includes the control of EIPH with Lasix.
- There is only one effective control of EIPH in horses, Lasix
- Veterinarians, the personal physicians of the equine athlete, recommend and support the use of Lasix
- Misleading and inaccurate information about the use of Lasix in racing has been perpetuated by small agenda-driven groups both inside and outside of the racing industry for the purpose of swaying public opinion
- There are people in the racing industry who have insisted that Lasix be eliminated because “the public cannot tell the difference between Lasix and cocaine.”
WE BELIEVE THAT THE GENERAL PUBLIC IS SMARTER THAN THAT
Like HRI, the Lasix site has comments. These comments below follow the statement above:
Russell C. Williams, President, United States Trotting Association
The public deserves to be told the truth about Lasix, and this site does exactly that. The horse’s health and welfare are the only priorities.
We have a 3yr old trotting filly on the Ontario Lasix program due to minor bleeding.
This program is monitored closely.
A specified amount of lasix is administered within 4 hours of post time.
Our filly racing performance has changed completely since starting the lasix program.
It’s therapeutic period.
Don’t ever give in to the uninformed morons who want to destroy our great sport !
Very well said. I own thoroughbreds and race at several tracks. I would be terrified to run without lasix. If the public were to own a racehorse, the time, care and companionship horseman have with these athletes, then be given the choice to run with or without Lasix, this having seen EIPH in it’s worse form, I bet the views would be different.
Please, you people that do not have a clue about racing horses and there well being: Lasix is a medication that prevents the lungs from bleeding and setting up of an infection in the lungs. Many do not bleed out of nose and show they are bleeding, therefore set up this infection and some horses die from this. This is not a medication that makes them go faster it is a drug that lets them race to there potential. If you take away Lasix you are killing most of the horses that race.
Thank you for giving factual evidence for the use of Lasix and for looking out for the welfare of the horse, instead of the hysterical dribble being spewed and printed.
Eliminate all race-day drugs from Thoroughbred racing.
A tip to all breeders – Granted you have a lot of money invested in horses from bleeding families that will lose value when Lasix is discontinued. Given the opinion of experts that it will take 40-50 years to change the breed in America, I give you the solution – Japan.
In the ‘70’s and ‘80’s the Japanese invested heavily in high-priced American pedigrees at US auction houses. In the subsequent 30-40 years, they bred against the bleeding lines to be able to race in Japan, where Lasix is illegal.
The Japanese have done all the work and now all you have to do is buy back the progeny of the US breeding stock. I know this will help improve the breed in the US and save the industry three to four decades of work.
All I ask for in return is that you begin funding aftercare in the breeding shed. Aftercare is not solely the financial responsibility of breeders, but it is their moral obligation to initiate it.
Make mandatory the use of the new 3-D pedCAT scanner at all racetracks. It will help greatly to insure that only sound horses race.
Industry organizations should drop support of HIA, a bad bill, and put all efforts into amending The Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978. Even if HIA passes, local HBPA’s can stop racing from earning if there is a Lasix ban.
If industry leaders think the NHBPA, which has existing law on its side, will back down if they get government support, they are sadly mistaken. In fact, congress cannot pass a new law in conflict with an existing one.
Drug use, not specifically Lasix but some of the 379 acceptable drugs used in this sport, causes breakdowns by masking symptoms and numbing pain. Breakdowns shown on TV will bring down the sport.
Hello to all the industry stakeholders in favor of race-day medications: America will not continue to watch horses die for a sport that drugs its athletes the day they compete!
The Charge of the Light Brigade was a failed military action. I hope that this 600 fails, too.