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What You Need to Know: EPO

EPO – What You Need to Know.

Take 5 minutes to watch the video.



In this first of a series of “What You Need to Know” briefings about racing integrity matters, Dr. Richard Sams, PhD. talks about EPO (Erythropoietin) and horses.

Dr. Sams has been one of the leading anti-doping and equine drug testing experts, advising numerous regulatory authorities and serving on the scientific advisory committees for the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and the Association of Racing Commissioners International.

Key points:

  • Human athletes cheat with EPO to emulate what naturally happens in a horse;
  • Questions remain on actual affect on performance in a horse, although some do cheat with it and EPO can increase oxygen carrying red blood cells;
  • Some EPO can destroy rather than boost red blood cells in a horse, leading to anemia and possibly death;
  • Testing for EPO must be done out-of-competition.

                                 Ed Martin, ARCI President


Uniformity Status from those most affected.

Those most affected by jurisdictional differences in regulatory policy are the horsemen who participate in multiple jurisdictions.  There are two organizations that represent these horsemen: the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (THA) and the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA). Together, they represent the largest constituency in thoroughbred racing.

There has been a lot of talk about “uniformity” and it has become a mantra for some who don’t truly understand that in the US there is substantial uniformity across the regulatory network.

Check out this map recently posted by the THA showing the results of their analysis of US state racing commission adoption of the Model Rules that some have lumped together under the name “NUMP”.

It is interesting that those complaining in Washington about the uniformity issue do not include the organizations representing the tens of thousands of working horsemen who would be most affected by any inconsistencies.

There is substantial, not total, uniformity and differences do exist.  But they are relatively minor in the scheme of things and it would better serve the sport if people would continue working to address the main integrity, equine welfare, and competitive positioning challenges horse racing has.


Changes Needed if US Seeks to Emulate Ireland

Developments in Ireland designed to bolster out of competition testing and the exclusion of certain horses underscores the need for the US racing industry to support ARCI’s call last December for an expansion of regulatory authority over horses who have yet to come under the jurisdiction of a racing commission, according to the group’s President.

“We applaud Horse Racing Ireland and its chief Brian Kavanagh for their creative effort to get access to horses on unlicensed grounds,” said ARCI President Ed Martin.

Last December the ARCI made a general call to expand the government’s authority in order to close what many regulators consider to be a major loophole in independent oversight of the un-regulated aspects of the race horse industry. The impetus for that proposal came from the reported widespread use of bisphosphonates in young horses despite government warnings that such use may not be safe.

Consistent with this general call, ARCI President Ed Martin, in written testimony before a congressional subcommittee earlier this year, offered several suggestions to Members of Congress seeking to help the racing industry.

Martin proposed:

  • Requiring all horses bred to be racehorses be registered with and come under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS);
  • Empowering APHIS to make rules affecting young horses not yet under the jurisdiction of a state racing commission;
  • Directing APHIS to contract with state racing commissions for the purpose of out-of-competition equine welfare and anti-doping examinations to determine adherence to the APHIS rules;
  • Authorizing APHIS to recover costs for such inspections from the owners of any horse inspected, consistent with state racing commission contracts entered into for that purpose;
  • Require that a portion of the existing funds – $9.5 million – appropriated by Congress each year for anti-doping programs through the White House Office of National Drug Policy be available to fund anti-doping research of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium consistent with anti-doping needs identified by the Organization of Racing Investigators or the ARCI.

The limitations on regulatory authority as well as equine welfare concerns about the use of Bisphosphonate drugs on young horses were main topics at the ARCI Integrity and Animal Welfare Conference last April in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The ARCI has not taken a formal position on Martin’s suggestions, but is open to working with appropriate industry organizations to develop ways to regulate young horses and address specific jurisdictional limitations where they occur.

US Federal Law grants wide authority to licensed veterinarians to use substances in horses that have been approved by the FDA for other species. That authority continues even if the government has issued cautionary statements. This broad authority affects not only the use of bisphosphonates on young horses but also the steroids that have triggered the actions of Horse Racing Ireland.

None of the federal bills proposed during the last decade affecting horse racing address this issue.


ARCI President Ed Martin’s Opening Statement at the Congressional Hearing on H.R. 2651, June 22, 2018

The Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee of the US House of Representatives held a hearing on H.R.2651 (Barr-Tonko), legislation that would radically change the way equine medication and anti-doping policies are made and implemented in the US.

ARCI President Ed Martin was invited to testify along with the leaders of The Jockey Club, the Humane Society of the US, the National HBPA, Breeders Cup and the Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association. This video is Martin’s opening statement.

Read Ed Martin’s Full Testimony

Factual Status of Greyhound Racing in the U.S.

This post was originally published in 2015 but is relevant given the current proposed legislation in Florida.

By Eddie Menton
Chairman, Mobile County Racing Commission
Chairman, ARCI Greyhound Racing Committee

I have learned through media reports that a report called “High Stakes Greyhound Racing in the United States” has been circulated from a group called Grey2K USA.

Recipients were told in the very first line of the report: “Greyhound racing is illegal in 39 states.”   In fact, live Greyhound racing is illegal in only one state, Idaho (simulcasting of greyhound racing is however legal and conducted as is live horse racing and simulcasting).

Greyhound racing is legal and live racing is conducted in seven (7) states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia.

Live racing is legal but not conducted in four (4) states: Connecticut, Kansas, Oregon and Wisconsin, although each conducts simulcasts of greyhound races.

Simulcasts of greyhound races are conducted in an additional ten (10) states: Massachusetts, Colorado, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

That means 21 states allow wagering on greyhound races. The other 29 do not allow wagering on greyhound racing, but that does not mean one may not conduct greyhound racing without wagering.

Why would wagering not be allowed on greyhounds in certain states? The reasons vary, but most prominently the horse racing industry historically did not want wagering on anything but horse racing; and the proliferation of the casino industry (tribal and non-tribal) in the United States fueled the decline in handle for both greyhound racing and horse racing.

Horse racing states have always opposed any effort to legalize wagering on greyhound racing. It is understandable why when you look at the horse racing (20) states like Kentucky, New York, Maryland, California, Louisiana, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maine, Virginia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Washington, New Mexico, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri and Indiana. Idaho also has horse racing.

That leaves nine (9) states without wagering on greyhound racing or horse racing, either live or simulcast: Vermont, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Alaska, Utah and Hawaii.

Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee hold steeplechase racing, in which pari-mutuel wagering is not allowed.

Grey2K proudly leads one to believe that it is responsible for 28 tracks closing since its formation in 2001. It lists Victoryland at Shorter, Alabama, as one of the tracks, which was closed because the state’s attorney general confiscated illegal gambling machines. It also lists Tampa Greyhound Park, which sold its license to cross town rival Derby Lane, which continues to operate today; and it lists Jacksonville Kennel Club, which because of Florida law had to operate three separate licenses in order to hold year-round races. The law was changed and Jacksonville continues to run racing at only one venue year-round.

The truth is 27 tracks that closed are in 12 states and one is in Guam. Of the 12 states, wagering on greyhound racing is allowed in all of them. Live racing is allowed in eight (8) of them: Alabama, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Kansas and Oregon. Live racing is not allowed in four (4): Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Colorado, although simulcast wagering on greyhound racing is allowed and conducted.

All but four of the tracks closed for business reasons that had nothing whatsoever to do with any action by Grey2K.

Grey2K spearheaded a drive to stop greyhound racing in Massachusetts and was successful in getting voters to approve a referendum disallowing live racing, but leaving simulcast racing legal.

In New Hampshire, the Legislature removed funding for regulating live racing, forcing the two greyhound tracks to cease operations. Simulcasting of greyhound racing and horse racing continues today. Grey2K also worked to end racing in New Hampshire.

In Colorado, live racing ended in 2008 when Mile High Kennel Club ceased its operations, but remains open for simulcast races. In 2014, the Colorado Legislature quietly and insignificantly passed a bill ending live greyhound racing despite the fact that there is no real prospect of live racing being revived.

An Associated Press story on the bills passage read: “A fiscal analysis prepared for lawmakers predicted no impact from the ban because the state has already eliminated greyhound-racing regulators.”

Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island took a very heavy hit from tribal casinos, most notably the incredibly successful Foxwoods Casino. Colorado’s tracks suffered a similar fate at the hands of casinos, but also fell victim to the economy in the state and the cost of operations.

While Grey2K leads people to believe that it is responsible for live greyhound racing not being conducted in “39” states, there is little other than Coca-Cola and McDonald’s which have operations in all 50 states.

Are Bisphosphonates Safe for Race Horses?

Concerns about the safety of the use of bisphosphonates in young horses intended to have racing careers are being raised by racing regulators, particularly our equine medical directors and the ARCI Regulatory Veterinarians.

This matter has been discussed by the Equine Welfare Committee as well as the ARCI Board, which called for an expansion of authority over horses beyond the regulatory reach of many commissions.

This discussion was front and center at the recent ARCI Conference on Equine Welfare and Racing Integrity in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

To further everyone’s understanding of these drugs, we have included a link to the video of the panel discussion on this topic. We are especially appreciative for the presentations of Dr. Lynn Hovda and Dr. Sue Stover.

  • Dr. Hovda is the long time Equine Medical Director of the Minnesota Racing Commission and Chair of the ARCI Regulatory Veterinarians Committee. She also represents ARCI on the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium where she serves as a Member of their Scientific Advisory Committee. Dr. Hovda holds memberships in several professional, scientific, and civic organizations, and has served on committees for the American Veterinarian Medical Association, American College of Veterinary Medicine, and the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
  • Dr. Stover is a Professor, and Director of the JD Wheat Veterinary Orthopedic Research Laboratory at the University of California at Davis. She is on the faculty at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, UC Davis and teaches clinical equine lameness and surgery to veterinary students and residents. She became board certified by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons while pursuing a PhD program focused on equine orthopedic research (Dorsal metacarpal disease (‘bucked shins’) in Thoroughbred racehorses). She now devotes her time to equine orthopedic research, with over 200 research publications; mentoring veterinary students, graduate students, and residents in research; and teaching musculoskeletal anatomy, bio-mechanics, and pathology to veterinary students.

The information presented is important for anyone involved with the health and care of our equine athletes. The discussion is almost forty minutes, but definitely worth the time.

Ed Martin, ARCI President