The Maryland Racing Commission has approved an overhaul of the state's Lasix program that will eliminate special race-day holding barns for Lasix-using thoroughbreds and should help streamline administration procedures.
But horsemen will be required to comply with guidelines that give the board's chemists added control over post-race quantitative testing or face penalties such as fines or the loss of purse money.
As long as the administration of Lasix meets certain requirements, horses will no longer need to be quarantined before race time in so-called Lasix barns because commission chemists have perfected post-race tests that can pinpoint if Lasix is masking other possible forbidden drugs.
Under the new program, which could start at Laurel Park by the middle of next month, Lasix must be given intravenously, and not intramuscularly, and injected four hours before race time instead of the previous three-hour time frame.
Such measures will ensure control of post-race quantitative tests, said Tom Lomangino, the board's head chemist.
But since the effectiveness of Lasix lasts longer under intramuscular injection, horsemen will be allowed to use other anti-bleeding drugs, such as Amicar, in conjunction with Lasix. A mixture of such dosages prolongs the effectiveness of Lasix without diluting the post-race sample, Lomangino added.
However, commissioner James D'Orta, head of the board's medication committee, said he does not favor the use of such hemostatic agents and wants to see how they are used during a fall-long trial period at Laurel.
Ken Schertle, the commission's executive director, said that the new rules should make the Lasix program easier to administer.
"When the program started [in the 1970s], maybe 10 to 12 horses were involved," Schertle said. "It was manageable to house that number in a Lasix barn. Now 90 percent of our runners race on Lasix. That means 70 to 80 horses a day are housed in Lasix barns, oftentimes in overflow areas, and it's that zTC system that has become unmanageable."
Under the new program, veterinarians administering Lasix will be required to fill out certification forms that list the time and amount of Lasix that has been injected into each horse.