As a result of its recent membership with the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA), the Philippine Racing Commission (Philracom) will begin its drug-testing protocols on horses today in the final leg of the Triple Crown Series at the Santa Ana park.

"Drug-testing is a sign that we are already world-class racing authority," said Philracom's executive director Dr. Andrew Rovie Buencamino. "We will do the demo in Santa Ana in line with the Triple Crown because we want to drum it up, we really want the public to know that we are serious in this."

 

Drug-testing on horses through blood samples was initiated by former Philracom Chairman Antonio Lagdameo in 1994, but was stopped 10 years ago by a temporary restraining order by a horseowner, who challenged the process of the drug-testing then. The TRO was finally lifted by the court last year.

"Since the beginning of this year, we were already provided a budget to revive the equine drug testing. Established racing authorities in the world requre equine drug testing. It's one of the protocols na kailangan signatory ka before your can be a full member of IFHA. This measure is not only to protect the integrity of racing and the interest of the bettors, but also to protect the health of the horses," said Buencamino.

The executive director revealed that the Philracom drug-testing will initially be a six-month dry run in order for the horse-racing body to perfect the entire procedure.

"We are giving this drug testing six months na trial run in order to perfect and find the loopholes. We don't want to immediately impose it na hindi namin napapag-aralan nang maigi kung ano 'yung mga dapat naming gawin. We are also studying the protocols abroad, kasama ako, si Dr. Jojo Kambay, who is the head of our laboratory here," he said. "The results of our test will be confidential. During the six-month dry run, we won't impose penalties yet."

The Philracom is getting the services of US-based drug testing company Neogen to randomnly test the horses, staring with the participants of Sunday's Triple Crown. As a start, Neogen will be looking for downers (depressants and/or performance inhibitors) such as Azaperone, Etorphine, Propanolol, Detomidine, Benzodiazapine, Flunittrazepam and Promazie in the horses' urine samples.

"Ang pain reliever hindi pa namin binabawal. In some countries, there is a certain limit that is allowed, because they believe that, in a way, it is therapeutic. But in Hong Kong, where we patterned out procedure, there's a 10day withdrawal period, so kailangan within that 10days, zero 'yung presence ng pain relievers," said Buencamino.

"In America, they allow certain levels. Parang sa satin, 'yung mga basketball players, umiinom ng pain killers. Here, we want to monitor, because we are also concerned of the health of the horses. Ayaw namin na tumatakbo sila na pilay na pilay."

Buencamino said that the racing industry, led by the horseowners and racing clubs welcome this program with open arms.