Soon after my arrival as FHBPA Executive Director in February this year, I was greeted with a deluge of positive tests being called against trainers by the State of Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering (the “Division”).
I came to learn that Florida passed into law changes to Permitted Medications for Horses in mid-2015 that were implemented starting January 10, 2016. Included in those changes were new threshold levels for 23 controlled therapeutic medications plus primary and secondary thresholds for three non-steroidal anti-inflammatories – flunixin, ketoprofen and phenylbutazone.
Although the law was enacted months before it was implemented, no warnings of positive threshold violations were provided to trainers and veterinarians during the interim period to allow for adjustment of therapeutic treatments to help prevent even slight threshold race day overages upon implementation.
As threshold overages began being called this year and the penalties assessed seemed out of line with many of the offenses, several issues were raised. There is an overall desire for Florida’s medication policies to be uniform with other states. Unlike other states that have adopted ARCI recommended thresholds and penalties, the Division only adopted the thresholds. As a result, many trainers were being called for positives for the approved controlled therapeutics with thresholds (and partly as a result in the delay in notice by the Division, sometimes multiple positives for the same drug), that just months before were not being called. And instead of being assessed ARCI recommended penalties, the Division assessed large fines and suspensions that were subject to negotiation.
The FHBPA met with the Division recently to discuss these issues and is working toward solutions that protect the integrity of the sport while also addressing inconsistencies in the law and its enforcement.
FHBPA has proposed a Petition to Initiate Rulemaking to the Division that would:
- Adopt ARCI Model Penalty Rules as its penalty guidelines;
- Provide that changes adopted by the ARCI for thresholds or penalties would be incorporated in the Division’s Rules without further rulemaking; and
- Make NSAID stacking violations a single infraction with a set penalty schedule
As FHBPA Executive Director, I believe it is better to work with the Division in an attempt to correct the problems in the laws, in the best interest of the horsemen, the State and the sport.