New clenbuterol rule and HISA request addressed by PHRC

Posted: May 25, 2021

The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission May 25 approved a clenbuterol regulation already adopted in other Mid-Atlantic states.

The clenbuterol rule, approved by the Association of Racing Commissioners International and endorsed last year by a group of Mid-Atlantic racing stakeholders as part of the Mid-Atlantic Strategic Plan to Reduce Equine Fatalities, changes the threshold testing level from 2 picograms to limit of detection—effectively banning the medication for racing purposes—and requires regulatory approval in advance for a horse in racing or training that is prescribed the medication. It also mandates that the horse be placed on the Veterinarian’s List, and bars the horse from racing until it tests negative in both blood and urine and completes a satisfactory workout observed by a regulatory veterinarian.

Tom Chuckas, Thoroughbred Bureau Director for the PHRC, said he expects the rule will take effect July 1 or July 15 pending publication. The regulation, which does not pertain to Standardbred racing in the state, was unanimously approved by commissioners permitted to vote on Thoroughbred regulations.

Representatives of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association said they support the regulatory change on clenbuterol.

In other business at the meeting, the president of the United States Trotting Association requested that PHRC join a federal lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which became law in late December 2020 and is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2022. The USTA Board of Directors in April voted 35-8 to join the suit, one of two legal challenges to HISA.

The USTA joined the suit that includes racing commissions in Oklahoma and West Virginia, several racetracks and Quarter Horse interests. Russell Williams, also president and chief executive officer of Hanover Shoe Farms, made a presentation to members of the PHRC during the regulatory agency’s monthly meeting. He noted that the HISA nominating committee already has named members of the board of directors of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority as well as members of two standing committees and said the individuals “are not subject to confirmation by any elected officials.”

Though HISA only mentions Thoroughbred racing, it does contain language that would allow individual state racing regulatory agencies to include other breeds. Williams said it’s not clear whether state racing commissions have the power to abdicate authority to the HISA board, but he expects some states to include the Standardbred industry.

“It’s not often states go into federal court to attack the constitutionality of a federal law,” Williams said. The PHRC took no action on the request, though Russell Redding, chair of the PHRC and secretary of the state Department of Agriculture, said: “There is certainly a lot to think about. We will take this under advisement and we recognize the significance of this action.”