06/28/2006 11:00PM

Consortium seeks tighter steroids rules

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A national group seeking to reform medication rules in the United States will produce a position paper by the end of the year that will seek tighter regulation of the use of anabolic steroids, according to the group's executive director.

The position paper will address an issue that has long been at the controversial fringe of the U.S. racing industry. The United States is the only country in which nearly all major racing jurisidictions allow the unlimited and unregulated use of anabolic steroids, which are used to build muscle mass and restore horses' appetites after strenuous exercise.

"Everyone agrees that we need tighter regulation," said Scott Waterman, the executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, which met on Tuesday in Dallas. "That's where we will be starting from. Where it goes from there is hard to say, since there are a lot of elements to a policy."

The consortium's board unanimously approved the drafting of the paper, Waterman said. The group has issued position papers on a variety of racing medication and testing issues, and many of those papers have been reworked into model rules and adopted by racing commissions across the country.

Use of anabolic steroids in racehorses in the United States extends from breeding farms to sales rings to racetracks. Regulation is considered a difficult issue because the drugs have legitimate therapeutic purposes and are not considered "raceday" drugs, since anabolics confer their benefits over extended use, rather than in one day.

Waterman acknowledged that regulation would be difficult.

"We have a lot of questions to answer," Waterman said. "Do we want incremental change? Do we want to go to a European, no-tolerance system? Or do we want something that would allow for judicious use, with a firm withdrawal schedule? It's very hard to answer those questions."

The position paper will likely be completed by the consortium's meeting in November, Waterman said, but he called that timeline "ambitious."