10/15/2001 11:00PM

HBPA to release drug plan


The National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association plans to enter the sometimes-bitter national debate on drug-testing and medication on Thursday with the release of its own recommendations for uniform drug rules, NHBPA officials said Tuesday.

"We're going to roll out what we think the national policy should be," John Roark, president of the HBPA, said. "We might be biting off a little more than we can chew here, but we think it's workable."

While declining to offer specifics until the plan is released, Roark said the proposal was developed over the last several months using the input of horsemen representing "both extremes" in the drug debate.

"We have people from opposite ends of the spectrum who believe this and believe that who are now saying, 'I can live with this, and I can live with that,'" Roark said.

The NHBPA plans to release the proposal at Keeneland Racecourse on Thursday morning.

The NHBPA will pick up where a task force created by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association left off. That task force, which released its findings in August, recommended that racing develop and implement a uniform set of rules, but it did not take a position on what rules would be ideal.

The drug debate has been one of the most sensitive in racing over the past several years, and many groups have come under fire after injecting themselves into the controversy, including several affiliates of the NHBPA.

"We really wanted to take the lead on this because we own and train the horses," Roark said. "They're our horses, and we have the most to lose or gain from this."