09/25/2014 3:42PM

Kentucky adopts stricter penalties for multiple drug offenders

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LEXINGTON , Ky. -- The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Thursday approved amendments to its penalty schedule for medication violations, bringing the state largely in line with the recommendations of national groups seeking uniform rules in U.S. racing states.

The penalty schedule, which is expected to go into effect later this year, substantially increases penalties for trainers and owners who have multiple medication violations. The schedule is nearly identical to a set of regulations approved by both the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and the Association of Racing Commissioners International, with several small differences that commission staff said were necessary to comply with Kentucky law.

One of the differences involves adding a range of penalties for Class C violations, and the other involves a stricter penalty for so-called stacking violations, which refer to the use of multiple painkillers at one time. Commission officials said the stacking penalty adopted in Kentucky is likely to be adopted by the RMTC and RCI because of new research on the effects of multiple painkillers.

“We’re actually ahead of the curve on this one,” said John Ward, the chairman of the commission, who is also currently serving as the chairman of the RCI.

The penalty schedule is part of a two-pronged effort to unify racing rules among U.S. jurisdictions, along with a push to adopt regulations allowing for the therapeutic use of 26 medications. Kentucky has already adopted the medication rules and they are currently being enforced.

Including Kentucky, eight states have adopted both the penalty schedule and the medication rules. A handful of other jurisdictions are in the process of adopting the new rules, but the pace of adoption has been criticized by some racing groups who believe that the effort to align racing states has proceeded too slowly or will not ultimately succeed.

Also at the meeting, Dr. Mary Scollay, the equine medical director of the commission, said that the fatality rate in Kentucky has dropped 50 percent since 2007, when the state began tracking fatal injuries. Through August of this year, the rate is down 32 percent when compared with  the same time period in 2013, Scollay said.