NY state senator introduces bill to ban Lasix

New York State Sen. Thomas K. Duane (D-Manhattan) introduced legislation on Tuesday banning the use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide, commonly referred to as Lasix, on any horse participating in a state-sanctioned race. The bill assesses penalties for the use of Lasix and for the use of performance-enhancing drugs, which are already prohibited.

Duane’s legislation is based on a federal model that is pending before the U.S. Senate. Duane is currently seeking a sponsor for a similar bill to be introduced into the State Assembly.

“Lasix is not used outside the United States and some parts of Canada,” Duane said in a press release. “For more than two decades, New York showed tremendous leadership by being the only horse racing state in the nation that banned Lasix. Sadly, in 1995 the New York State Office of Gaming, Racing, and Wagering succumbed to the pressure of the horse racing industry and lifted the ban … We ban all other athletes in every other sport from taking performance-enhancing drugs both for their safety and to maintain the integrity of their sports. Yet we embrace the idea of dispensing Lasix to horses so they won’t have a nosebleed or develop blood in their lungs during a big race. This is unacceptable.”

Further, Duane’s release states that until this bill becomes law, he urges “everyone to refrain from wagering on any horse that is being dosed with Lasix — or worse.”

Duane’s bill is the latest in a movement by legislative leaders and some industry organizations to ban the use of all drugs in racing. Earlier this year, the Breeders’ Cup announced a ban on the use of Lasix in its five 2-year-old races beginning in 2012 and is moving toward a ban of Lasix and all other race-day medications for all of its 15 races beginning in 2013.

In August, the American Graded Stakes Committee approved a measure to ban the use of Lasix in all 2-year-old stakes in order to retain their graded status.

Duane’s bill calls for the following penalties for those who administer performance-enhancing drugs in New York:

First violation: A $5,000 fine and a suspension of no less than 180 days.

Second violation: A $20,000 fine and a suspension of no less than one year.

Third violation: A $50,000 fine and a permanent ban.

Further, horses that test positive for banned substances would be prohibited from racing for six months for a first violation, one year for a second violation, and two years for a third and any subsequent violation.

Rick Violette, a New York-based trainer and president of the state’s Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, criticized the legislation.

“I would be glad to sit down with the good senator to educate him and show him the error of his ways, but the overwhelming science shows that over 80 percent of horses bleed without the administration of Lasix and to introduce legislation banning the therapeutic use of Lasix would simply be premeditated animal abuse,” Violette said.

In 2010, the New York Racing Association began the practice of having its own veterinarians be the only ones that could administer Lasix on race day.

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