05/04/2011 2:52PM

Bill banning raceday medication introduced

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Two congressmen who have previously supported federal efforts to regulate racing introduced legislation on Wednesday that would prohibit the use of raceday drugs and permanently ban trainers whose horses test positive for performance-enhancing drugs three times.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky, and Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat from New Mexico, was introduced into both the House and Senate three days before the Kentucky Derby, when the racing world is in the national spotlight. The congressmen used similar timing last year when jointly issuing a public letter to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association seeking answers to questions concerning the industry’s medication policies and penalty guidelines.

Daily Racing Form obtained a copy of the draft legislation last week. The copy had been circulating in the racing industry for several days, following two months of speculation about the possibility that federal legislators would seek to introduce a bill this spring requiring federal oversight of the sport.

Under the bill, the Federal Trade Commission would take over the role of state racing commissions in regulating the use of medications in racing and doling out penalties. In addition to banning trainers for life if their horses test positive three times, horses that test positive for performance-enhancing drugs three times would be banned for two years.

Most state racing commissions already have rules that require bans of trainers whose horses test positive for powerful performance-enhancing drugs. Positives for those types of drugs – called Class 1 drugs – are extraordinarily rare.

Most racing officials contend that the legislation has little chance to pass, citing Republican control of the House of Representatives. Republicans in the House have adopted a strict platform opposing any broadening of federal powers.

The bill’s ban on raceday drugs dovetails with an effort underway to ban the use of the diuretic furosemide on raceday, the only medication allowed on raceday in the U.S. and Canada. The effort to ban the drug, which is used to treat bleeding in the lungs, is supported by a half-dozen influential industry organizations, but horsemen have urged caution. Meetings among industry organizations are scheduled later this year to discuss the impact of the policy.