Maryland Racing Commission moves to greatly limit use of clenbuterol

The Maryland Racing Commission in late October began the rule-making process for clenbuterol, a bronchodilator that would not be permitted unless it is prescribed by regulatory veterinarians under the proposed restrictions.

A coalition of 31 regulatory and stakeholder organizations representing all seven states in the Mid-Atlantic region have unanimously agreed to work together to implement the new rule. In Maryland, it will take about three months for the proposed regulation to go through the regulatory process, which will include a public comment period.

Under the current regional rule, clenbuterol may not be administered to a horse within 14 days of a race, and the concentration of the drug in a post-race blood sample may not exceed 140 picograms/milliliter. The new rule will eliminate the existing testing threshold, require regulatory approval in advance for a horse in racing or training that is prescribed the medication, mandate that the horse be placed on the Veterinarian's List, and bar the horse from racing until it tests negative in both blood and urine and completes a satisfactory workout observed by a regulatory veterinarian.

MRC Executive Director Mike Hopkins said that though clenbuterol is considered therapeutic when used properly, "studies show abuse other than the intended medical need."

New York State Gaming Commission Equine Medical Director Dr. Scott Palmer presented to a group of Mid-Atlantic stakeholders data collected from a recent out-of-competition sampling program. Palmer indicated that the NYSGC required all horses trained by federally indicted individuals to submit to hair testing for prohibited and impermissible substances prior to those horses being allowed to return to racing.

"The commission's hair testing review found that clenbuterol was administered to a substantial number of these horses without evidence of a medical prescription," Palmer said. "In addition to being a useful therapeutic medication to treat respiratory disease, clenbuterol has re-partitioning effects that can enhance muscle development. Clenbuterol should not be administered to racehorses without a legitimate treatment plan and a proper diagnosis. This new rule will eliminate the improper use of clenbuterol."

The proposed clenbuterol rule is as follows:

1. Clenbuterol use is prohibited in racing and training unless the following conditions are met:

a. The prescription for clenbuterol is made for a specific horse based upon a specific diagnosis. The prescription and volume dispensed cannot exceed a treatment period of 30 days.

b. The veterinarian must provide a copy of the prescription and diagnosis to the Equine Medical Director for review and approval. The horse may not receive clenbuterol before this approval is issued.

c. Trainers must make daily notification to the official veterinarian of horse(s) in their custody having been administered clenbuterol. Notification shall be made on a form and by a deadline designated by the Commission.

d. A horse administered clenbuterol shall be placed on the official veterinarian's list. The horse must meet all conditions for removal from the list including a timed workout and blood and urine sampling. Both samples must have no detectable clenbuterol.

e. A horse may not enter to race until it has completed all the requirements in subdivision (d).

2. If a clenbuterol is detected in a horse's post-race or out of competition sample and appropriate notification as outlined in subdivision 1(a) or (b) was not completed, the horse shall immediately be placed on the Official Veterinarian's List pending the outcome of an investigation. The horse shall be required to meet all conditions for removal from the veterinarian's list outlined in subdivision 1(d), above.

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