Deciphering the Drug Rules
As we look forward to the 2011 competition season in Ontario, one that will have beautiful weather with no torrential rain or excessive humidity, it is a good time to have another look at the Equine Canada medication rules for our horses. This is not an article that provides everything you need to know in order to avoid a positive test but it does address some frequently asked questions, some misconceptions and current rule changes. Our medication rules have some significant differences from those of the USEF. We have a new change in the rules for 2011, a change in the testing sensitivity for a prohibited product in 2010 and an increase in severity of fines and penalties for a positive test.
Canada has had an active equine medication control program since the mid-1970s with a purpose of protecting the health, welfare and safety of horse and rider and to assure a fair competition. These Medication Rules are found in the General Regulations, Chapter 10 and the Drug and Medication Penalties are also in the General Regulations, Chapter 12, Article A1215. Our rules are similar to the rules of the Canadian Pari-mutuel Agency for racing with a few exceptions. Equine Canada permits the following specified medications:
ARTICLE A1003 PERMITTED MEDICATIONS
Permitted Medications may be present in a horse during an EC-sanctioned competition.
1. Permitted Medications are the following:
a) non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs approved for use in Canada for horses: flunixin meglumine, ketoprofen, phenylbutazone, vedoprofen or acetylsalicylic acid, subject to the restrictions below. b) the anti-ulcer medications: cimetidine, ranitidine, or omeprazole. Please note that some Permitted Medications can alter the elimination guidelines contained in the Schedule of Drugs.
2. Only one non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug may be administered. If more than one non-steroidal anti-
inflammatory drug is found in any sample, the test will be deemed positive. Samples found to contain a permitted medication may be subjected to quantitative testing.
3. Restrictions relating to permitted medication are as follows:
a) The maximum permissible plasma or serum concentration of flunixin is 1.0 microgram per millilitre. b) The maximum permissible plasma or serum concentration of phenylbutazone is 15.0 micrograms per millilitre.
4. The rules of certain divisions/breed sports are more restrictive and in some cases allow no drugs or medications. See discipline/breed sport rules. *
This means that horses are permitted to be on one non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is licensed for use in horses here in Canada. This can be confusing for people who have been showing in the United States. Products like Surpass, Equioxx and Naprosyn are not listed here because they are not licensed in Canada. These rules also specifically permit treatment with specified ulcer medications.
Guidelines to avoid exceeding the permitted level allowed for phenybutazone are as follows: up to 2 Grams/450 kg. before 12 hours from competition given intravenously or up to 1 Gram/450 kg. at 12 hour intervals regardless of class time, and for Banamine is: up to 500 mg./450 kg. orally or intravenously before 12 hours from competition.
The one NSAID rule is absolute. The Emergency Medication Form, discussed later in this article, is never accepted as an excuse for a horse testing positive for two non-steroidal anti-inflamatories. Please remember that the horse in the next stall may be on another product. Imagine what happens if you put your horse, Sam, who had a mild colic yesterday morning and was given Banamine ( flunixin), into the neighbouring stall while you clean Sam’s. The neighbour is getting phenylbutazone in the feed and doesn’t like it. Sam found it quite tasty. And you are met by the drug tester as you leave the ring that afternoon with your championship ribbon. The penalty for 2 nsaids is a fine of $1500.00-$2000.00 and a 60-90 day suspension. Remember that the USEF and Canada have a reciprocity agreement and the USEF honour Canadian suspensions.
Products that are not licensed in Canada, containing a Canadian DIN number can provide
problems. Compounded products
are frequently used because they are produced in a form that
is not available in a licensed product or because they contain a marginally different
concentrations or composition and are less expensive. Health Canada holds pharmaceutical
companies responsible for making sure of the correct concentration and ingredients of licensed
products. There is not the same level of confidence for compounded products. If you are using a
product that can only be present at a certain level, for instance flunixin (Banamine), you are safer
to use a pharmaceutical product containing a Canadian DIN number.
have been known to be problematic. They do not always have a list of product
ingredients. Sometimes they can contain an ingredient that will produce a positive test. We all
use neutraceuticals at one time or another. You need to be cautious in your choice.
A rule change new
in this year is that the product clenbuterol, trade name Ventipulmin
, is no
longer permitted. This is an oral bronchodilator that has been controversial for several years
because it is believed to have body building (anabolic steroid) properties.
New last year was the development and approval of a more sensitive test for anabolic steroids
The FEI have had a lengthy withdrawal time for these body building products for several years.
As of last year, Equine Canada followed suit. The current test allows a product such as
stanozolol, the one that lost Ben Johnson a Gold metal in the Olympics, to be detected in the
horse up to 60 days after last administration. Excessive dosages may be detected longer.
Stanozolol is only available in compounded format and is subject to all of the uncertainties
inherent in compounded products.
A product that has resulted in positive tests in Canada is the muscle relaxant methocarbamol
(trade name Robaxin
). In the United States, controlled use of Robaxin will not result in a
positive test. In fact, it can be given 2 times a day. Here, use of smaller doses twice a
These rules exist to protect the horse. Many therapeutic medications are permitted. Horse may be on antibiotics with the exception of Procaine Penicillin G. Horses may be wormed with licensed products. They can be on medication for Equine Protazoal Myelitis (products like Marquis and Navigator).
The rules do allow horse to compete even if he has received a medication that would result in a positive test if he received it as a result of an acute accident or injury. The Emergency Medication Form can be used with very specific requirements. Medication must have been administered and the form filled and signed by a licensed veterinarian. Horses must be withheld from competition for 24 hours after they have received treatment. The report will not prevent all the consequences of a positive test “if a horse or pony has been administered a forbidden substance for shipping, clipping, or for any purpose other than a therapeutic purpose. Such horses/ponies MUST BE WITHDRAWN FROM COMPETITION until they can be shown in compliance with the rules, in order to avoid rule violations and serious penalties. ” ** For instance, if your horse has a skin cut, this allows him to have it sutured humanely and be eligible to horse show after 24 hours as long as he is healthy enough to compete. If your horse has a joint injection close enough to the competition to produce a positive test, the Emergency Medication Form will not prevent EC from treating it as a positive test. Testing for Equine Canada sanctioned competitions is done at the same laboratory and at the same level of sensitivity as is done for all Canadian horse racing. The Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency has tested horses to determine how long a product can be found after it is given. They have determined and published a list of detection limits for over 100 products in the “Schedule of Drugs for 2011”. These limits are very specific in terms of dose, route of administration, number of doses given. Because withdrawal time includes a number of factors, it is wise to consult your veterinarian to make sure you have withdrawn your horse from medication soon enough to prevent a positive test.
The penalties for the person responsible, the horse and anyone else who may be implicated have increased significantly. The amount of fine and length of suspension depend on the infraction. Currently, medications are divided into 5 categories. A class 5 drug infraction (first offence) would result in a fine of $750-$1000 and from 0-30 day suspension. A class 1 infraction (first offence) would result in a fine from $3000-$5000 and a 90 day suspension. To learn more about the penalties and products to avoid, Google search Equine Canada Medications. The EC webpage has a series of downloads related to EC Equine medications rules of procedure and to FEI rules and procedure.
For more complete information regarding our national drug rules and procedures:
• Go to General Regulations, Chapter 10 found on the Equine Canada website under
• Go to Sport, Equine Medication for downloads • To contact Equine Canada directly: Kari MacGregor, Program Coordinator – Equine
Medications karimacgregor@equinecanada. 613-248-3433 ext. 117
Do not forget to consult with you veterinarian regarding medications and competitions. This article is current only to April 12, 2011. Medication rules change frequently and you need to regularly check for changes and modifications.
*General Regulations, Chapter 10 ARTICLE A1003 PERMITTED MEDICATIONS
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