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Ontario Racing Commission proposes to ban race-day medication

Ban targets all drugs to increase animal welfare and promote fair play

By Allison Sears, University of Guelph Agricultural Communications Student, for Farms.com

A race-day ban on legal – and illegal – medication is being proposed by the Ontario Racing Commission for 2015.

This ban would mean therapeutic drugs could not be administered to horses on race day, with the exception of Lasix (a diuretic). The ban would target all drugs, to try to increase animal welfare and promote fair play.

“The USA and Canada are currently among the few countries who still allow horses to be raced when medicated,” says Steve Lister, thoroughbred breeder and trainer.

Here’s the problem. Many people in the industry say races are not equal, because some trainers cannot afford drugs to help give their horse an edge during a race. By imposing this medication ban, therapeutic drug use may be minimized. With these changes, it is believed all racehorses would have more of an equal opportunity to run at the same level.

The effort to ban race-day drug use intensified in the past year, with a large outcry from the public and animal rights activists for more transparency of individuals and organizations involved in the horse racing industry.  So following in the steps of the state of New York, the Ontario Racing Commission began moving in the direction of improving the racehorses’ welfare and the image of the racing industry, and aims to provide fairness for all racing competitors and bettors.


While the proposed race-day medication ban could potentially better the welfare and safety of racehorses, the current drug screening processes will need further improvement to accurately detect both the legal and illegal substances. Presently there are many legal drugs permitted on race day; the question now is whether banning race day medication is in the best interest of the horse and the industry. There’s no doubt, however: this ban will make a bold statement about Ontario’s horseracing industry.

But not everyone agrees with the ban. “This ban could destroy Canadian horse racing if it should go through,” says jockey Ryan Husbands. “As a jockey, I won’t feel as confident riding these horses. As athletes, they train hard, and they need their vitamins as well as medications. There is a huge gap between vitamins, and racing drugs.”

Allison Sears grew up in rural Nova Scotia. From the age of nine, Allison began her involvement with numerous agricultural organizations. Her involvement in 4-H and Canadian Pony Club helped her to get the ball rolling on her agricultural career path, and helped to further develop her communication skills. This past November, Alison participated in the Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture competition. Alison is currently in her final year of the Bio-Resource Management Program at the University of Guelph. Upon graduation she hopes to begin her career in agricultural marketing, business, or communications.  This article is part of Allison Sears’ course work for the University of Guelph agricultural communications course, instructed by Prof. Owen Roberts.

 


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