05/02/2002 11:00PM

Drug deadline set


Racing officials who met in Louisville on Wednesday to discuss medication reform have set a deadline for the end of June for plans to form a new national organization and develop a uniform medication rule, attendees of the meeting said Thursday.

Three committees set up by the officials at the Louisville meeting have been asked to provide by the deadline reports about their progress to Dr. Scot Waterman, the executive director of a medication task force set up by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. The reform group has tentatively scheduled a meeting for mid-July to discuss the reports, the officials said.

The three committees include a business and organizational committee, which has been charged with exploring how to fund and structure a national organization. A second committee has been asked to develop a detailed medication policy that could be adopted across the country. A third will attempt to set priorities for drug research.

Jim Gallagher, the former executive director of the NTRA task, force who is now a New York Racing Association official, will chair the medication-policy committee. To develop the policy, Gallagher said, the committee will review the medication rules from as many as 32 states and the model-rule proposals submitted late last year by the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.

"We already have a lot of the grunt work done," Gallagher said on Thursday. "We just have to put it in a workable form."

The Wednesday meeting was the second for the reform group. The group had previously met in Tucson, Ariz., in December, and had decided then to pursue a national medication policy, with support from most industry organizations.

Supporters of the reform movement have recently advanced an idea of assessing a $5 fee on each Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse starter in the United States, with Standardbred horses kicking in $3 per start. The fee, initially designed to be paid by owners, would conceptually provide $5 million to fund the new national organization.

Attendees of the meeting said the per-start fee was well-received, but a dispute centers on how the fees will be collected and who will pay. The national HBPA, for example, has asked for racetracks to match any fees paid by owners.

"It hasn't been determined yet what form that structure will take," Waterman said. "That's for the business committee to decide."