Forty prominent Thoroughbred owners have stepped forward to give race day diuretics like furosemide the boot, reports Abby Gibbon.
Image via Wikimedia Commons’ Intropin.
After a flurry of bad press in the lead-up to the Triple Crown and the state of Kentucky’s subsequent stakes-race ban of day-of medication furosemide (also known as Salix, formerly Lasix) by 2014, 40 prominent Thoroughbred owners have now committed to racing 2-year-olds furosemide- and adjunct bleeder medication-free.
The pledge marks a significant advance in both the campaign against race day meds and the long-fought battle to improve racing’s dubious, drug-addled public image. Though authorities across Europe and most of the world have long banned performance-enhancing race day drugs, diuretics like Salix rose to U.S. prominence in the 1970s to combat effects of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH), also known as bleeding.
Salix works by catalyzing fluid loss, thus lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of EIPH. Horses naturally disposed to excessive bleeding can then sustain competitive, perhaps prolonged careers (visible, repeat bleeding can lead to a horse’s eventual ban from racing). But Salix has also been shown to cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance—serious banes to post-race recovery—and through fluid-flushing effects, may mask the use of other performance-enhancing drugs. Most horses suffer some degree of EIPH; with race day drug use on the rise, diagnoses and injections–likely warranted and unwarranted—have since proliferated. As a result, most modern racehorses are administered diuretics just hours before post time.
But with Kentucky Derby-winning owners like the Team Valor Syndicate and Bill Casner on board, the anti-diuretic movement is gaining ground.
“I believe the pervasive use of furosemide, and the dehydration stress it causes requiring more recovery time, has contributed to horses making fewer starts and has fueled the public’s belief that giving medication to performance horses is abusive and nefarious,” Casner recently said. “Our racing industry thrived in a time prior to permitted race-day medications. Horses raced often and consistently. We are a global industry and we are out of step with the rest of the world. Race day medications are a failed experiment and it is time for us to do what is right for our horses and our industry.”
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