dr. mary scollay speaks with parx horsemen about supplements

By Dick Jerardi

Dr. Mary Scollay, the Chief of Science for the Horseracing Integrity & Welfare Unit (HIWU), spoke to and answered questions from the Parx horsemen for 90 minutes on Tuesday, the day before racing was paused for the annual summer break.

She was there mainly to explain what to look for in supplements, but, as HIWU is the enforcement arm of the Horseracing Integrity & Safety Authority (HISA), there were many questions about enforcement and HISA, the still relatively new federally-mandated overseer of the sport.

When asked what kind of feedback she got from the horsemen, Scollay said: “Some of them are frustrated, some of them confused, my job today was to try and ease some of the confusion around the Anti-Doping and Medication Control Rules. I hope I was successful there. It’s a learning process for all of us. Hopefully, we can move forward together rather than against each other.”

Confusion is a good word because, just two months in, so much of this is still so new. But Dr. Scollay’s presentation on supplements was quite illuminating.

“My talk was largely about supplements and that words matter,” she said. “According to (apparel mogul) Cy Sims, an educated consumer is the best customer. I’m not going to sell them suits, but they need to understand the risks associated with the use of supplements. As long as they are willing to accept those risks, they are able to use those supplements.”

“But there are products that are labeled in such a way as to establish them as drugs, and that puts the horsemen in serious jeopardy. And so reading labels is going to be critical to avoiding potentially very serious mistakes.”

It is critical, Dr. Scollay told the horsemen, that there are no drug claims on the labels. There is no “secret sauce. Don’t fall for it.”

There is no list of approved supplements by HISA or HIWU, so it all falls on the consumer (horsemen) to avoid anything that could lead to a problem with a test.

“It’s a marketing tool,” Dr. Scollay said of the claims. “These marketing tools could jeopardize your livelihood.”

She showed the horsemen something called “Total Tendon Repair” which had something called “Tendofit.”

“Anybody know what it is?” she asked. ‘Neither do I.”

She was, she emphasized, “trying to help you to protect yourselves; you’ve got to start being a defensive purchaser.”

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration), “is not going to get involved in consumer fraud. You can’t make the FDA do any more than they are doing.”

Dr. Scollay told the horsemen to “be aware of fictitious labels” and explained her concern for “too many unintended consequences.”

The Red Flags were words such as “will not test, all natural, proprietary blend.” Beware, the horsemen were told of “claims of curing, preventing or modifying disease” such as “heals ulcers, prevents EIPH, repairs cartilage, relieves pain, controls allergy symptoms.”

One of the main points of contention is that the new banned substance list is different from what the horsemen are used to, as is the enforcement that calls for immediate provisional suspensions in some cases. There is probably a happy medium between what appears to be a lack of due process at the outset and the interminable appeals that sometimes dragged out cases under the old system for years.

“Change is difficult for all of us, but I’ve been in this game for almost 40 years now and have a perspective that there’s been a lot of change that people either don’t remember or don’t really recognize, so this too shall pass,’’ Dr. Scollay said. “Change can be very disruptive, but it also can bring a healthier future for the sport going forward, and that’s what we hope.”

Jeff Matty, the PTHA Executive Director, said of the presentation: “Very informative there’s a lot of new rules, new regulations with HISA and HIWU. Presentations and documents are offered online, but to have Dr. Scollay here in person going back and forth with questions with our horsemen was more than helpful.”

After her presentation, Dr. Scollay went to the PTHA Tack Shop with Matty “to see what products we can offer, what products we shouldn’t offer.”

HISA/HIWU is a new world for the horsemen. Understanding all of the new rules will take time. But, in her role explaining the dos and don’ts of  supplements, Dr. Scollay’s presentation was comprehensive and could be summed up in the classic old phrase: “If it seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is.”

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