A Big Win for American Quarter Horse Racing

AQHA executive director Craig Huffhines comments on victories achieved at this week's ARCI annual meeting.

Q-Racing Journal

AQHA executive director Craig Huffhines has issued a statement regarding key victories reached by the American Quarter Horse racing industry at this week's ARCI annual meeting in Charleston, South Carolina.

AQHA executive director Craig P. Huffhines on Friday issued the following statement regarding the Association of Racing Commissioners International's amendment of its model rules to provide a zero tolerance for clenbuterol:

"Many of you know that AQHA’s and the American Quarter Horse racing industry’s leadership have been focused on making inroads into eliminating the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs in our racing industry.

"American Quarter Horse racing scored a big win this week at the Association of Racing Commissioners International annual meeting in Charleston, South Carolina. The ARCI model-rule committee and board of directors approved AQHA’s request to separate American Quarter Horse flat racing into its own breed-specific standard for medication violation within ARCI’s model rule. This newly approved directive of the ARCI comes as a result of AQHA staff and industry leaders sitting down at the table with commissioners and commission executives to outline the extent of the problem clenbuterol use has created for American Quarter Horse racing on the backside of racetracks due to the medication’s anabolic nature that has been proven to be performance enhancing.

"Specifically, AQHA asked the ARCI welfare committee and the model-rule committee to amend the uniform thresholds for therapeutic drugs to provide a zero tolerance for clenbuterol, also known as ventipulmen, in American Quarter Horse racing. Horses that test positive for the drug could be sidelined for six months, and must provide a clean test before returning to competition.

"For years, clenbuterol has been a therapeutic medication used to treat horses for inflammatory airway disease or recurrent airway obstruction due to its vasodilation properties, which act to open the airways in the lungs. It has been prescribed for human use for the treatment of asthma in the form of an inhalant, but it has also been used at higher doses by bodybuilders to burn fat and build muscle.

"Described as a Beta 2 agonist, clenbuterol has been banned in the livestock industry for more than 30 years because of the side effects it can have in humans who consume tainted food-animal products containing the drug compound. It has been a proven performance enhancer and muscle builder commonly referred to in the livestock industry as a repartitioning agent, which switches the animal from fat production to muscle production.

"The International Olympic Committee has also had a long-time ban on clenbuterol in athletes due to its performance-enhancing properties and dangerous side effects. Because of the nature of American Quarter Horse racing and the required explosive start and rapid acceleration of a race lasting under 21 seconds, muscle mass and “fast twitch” muscle strength become a premium and therefore the major difference in American Quarter Horse racing compared to the endurance qualities of Thoroughbred racing.

"Dr. Scott Stanley reported at the 2016 AQHA Racing Conference held at the Challenge Championships at Los Alamitos Race Course in California that illegally compounded clenbuterol produced in unregulated, black market laboratories has been commonly found and confiscated as illegal contraband on the backside of racetracks. The drug has been discovered in dangerously high concentrations indicative of an overuse and abuse of the drug. Dr. Stanley explained that the use of clenbuterol would likely give horses an unfair performance-enhancing impact and, at its worst, would produce the risk of a major equine welfare problem due to the potential side effects of the drug that could lead to death of the animal.

"The AQHA Racing Committee and Racing Council have been dealing with this issue for years, resulting in the Association’s attempt to self-regulate its own sport. In 2014, the AQHA Racing Council employed its own Multiple Medication Violation System with additional penalties handed down to violators over and above the penalties handed down by state adjudicated proceedings. This strategy proved overwhelming for AQHA, and in March 2016, AQHA suspended its MMVS program due to the volume and complexity of violations coming in from more than 20 jurisdictions. AQHA then appealed to state commissions to evaluate this serious problem and collectively work toward the elimination and proper employment of deterrents for not only clenbuterol but for all performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) that can be abused on the backside.

"Realizing there will always be performance-enhancing drugs, the industry will have to work diligently to identify and regulate these agents. This recent move by the ARCI is one step toward better regulating and properly classifying the PEDs we do know about. Out-of-competition testing, or the testing of horses for banned or illegally used substances before a race and on or off the backside of the racetrack, was also a hot topic of discussion this week at the ARCI meeting, creating a lot of buzz on how to employ hair testing as a proper deterrent and condition for racing. Scientists have perfected hair testing techniques that can detect banned substances that have been used in the animal for up to six months from administration. In addition, it was discussed this week how state jurisdictions can use a vet list or a stewards list that sidelines a horse from racing for a length of time until a horse clears such violation through additional testing.

"This was an excellent week for bringing about consensus on racing integrity. Now let’s hope our state racing commissions regulating American Quarter Horse racing will swiftly adopt and execute plans that will create the necessary deterrent to clenbuterol use and, for that matter, all banned PEDs. The health and well-being of the American Quarter Horse is AQHA’s utmost concern. In accordance with AQHA’s mission statement, we’re doing everything we can to ensure the American Quarter Horse is treated humanely, with dignity, respect and compassion at all times."

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