On-Track Pharmacies; the potential to improve racing integrity
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 regulatory veterinarian evaluate the request and dispense the medication to be administered to the specific horse. 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. Rather than trainers dictating medication protocols, 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 has a notion that his or her horse needs a certain medication, a veterinarian would be required to examine and assess the horse, arrive at a specific diagnosis, and then request the medication from the pharmacy, where further vetting of the plan would occur from the regulatory veterinarians and pharmacists. Rather than being utilized as medication technicians as attending veterinarians currently are utilized, attending veterinarians would again become doctors practicing the science and art of veterinary medicine. Instead of being paid for drugs they administer, horse doctors would again be compensated for their medical evaluation of the racehorse 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. Veterinarians will have to practice veterinary medicine as veterinary medicine should be practiced with racehorses. Pharmaceutical manipulation to enhance performance would be eliminated, while therapeutic treatments could be sustained. No drugs would be allowed to come into the track through any other venue. Every horse medicated is medicated via this process and no other, 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 all of the 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 each and every horse. The result is racing with increased integrity, increased safety, increased public support, and increased handle.
The effectiveness of an on track pharmacy on a wide scale basis depends on the construct that all of the horses are stabled at the track, or stabled at the track for a period of time before they race. Horses that are stabled off the track would be able to avoid the pharmacy protocol, unless some sort of stabling island surrounding the track could be established. In Hong Kong, horses are required to be stabled at the track to race. Modifications to manage American racing could include that the pharmacy protocol, while best serving horses on a continuous basis, would be enforced after horses are entered into a race. This would also allow a gradual implementation of the on-track pharmacy. Protocols to include ship-ins could include pre-race testing for horses stabled off track, but as we have seen, testing as a reliable method to manage doping has vast limitations.
Horsemen and veterinarians 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. It is pharmaceutical manipulation that has caused much the trouble the industry is experiencing. Injuries to both horses and jockeys are often due to doping and other unwholesome improper medication practices, which also devalue the horse while shortening their careers. A problematic part of American racing has become the ability of veterinarians and trainers to pharmaceutically manipulate performance, a practice so entrenched that it has become part of the game. The sport was designed to test the natural ability of the horse, and the trainer’s ability to bring out that natural ability. Doping and pharmaceutical manipulation were never intended to be part of horseracing, but pharmaceutical manipulation has become an integral part of horseracing in America. The breakdown rate in America is manyfold higher than in Hong Kong, and the ease of pharmaceutical manipulation is a primary reason for this safety differential.
Development of an on-track pharmacy policy is the doping prevention policy that is in the best interest of the racehorses, the riders, the players, and the owners. It is this system that has the greatest potential to restore integrity to horseracing in America. The model is in place in Hong Kong, where it has been tremendously effective in supporting racing with integrity while sustaining ethical horseracing values, while experiencing excellent handle as a result.
On track pharmacies represent the health and welfare of the horse. On-track pharmacies can make racing considerably safer and more ethical, restoring public trust in the sport.