04/13/2012 11:39AM

Kentucky committee scheduled to vote whether to ban raceday Lasix


LEXINGTON, Ky. – A committee of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will likely call for an up or down vote on the prohibition of the raceday administration of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide at a meeting on Monday, according to several officials who have knowledge of the committee’s plans.

The vote has the potential to thrust Kentucky to the forefront of a highly contentious issue that has split the racing community in states across the country. If the committee votes to ban the raceday use of furosemide, commonly marketed under the brand names Lasix or Salix, Kentucky will become the first state to take concrete steps to prohibit the medication, which is legal to use on raceday in every jurisdiction in North America.

The vote has caught some members of the committee off guard, according to a member of the committee who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The member said that the placement of the topic on the agenda for the Monday meeting was not divulged until late on Thursday, when the racing commission distributed the agenda.

The Race Day Medication Committee is scheduled to meet at 12:30 p.m. on Monday. The full racing commission, which generally approves items that are adopted by its committees, will convene immediately after the medication committee meets, opening up the possibility that the full commission could adopt a ban, either through the formal rule-making process or as an emergency measure.

The topic of a raceday ban of furosemide has not been discussed in a public forum of Kentucky regulators since December, when the committee held a six-hour hearing on the topic in Frankfort. During the December hearing, several members of the committee indicated that they would oppose any effort to ban the drug on race day, citing furosemide’s effectiveness in mitigating the impact of bleeding in the lungs.

The Race Day Medication Committee has six members and is chaired by Tracy Farmer, a powerful representative of owners and breeders both nationwide and in Kentucky. Farmer is a member of the Jockey Club, which has been pushing for the prohibition of furosemide on raceday, citing the belief that use of the drug has damaged the sport’s image and that a ban would align U.S. racing states with the vast majority of foreign racing jurisdictions.

Efforts to reach Farmer on Friday morning were unsuccessful.

The Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents trainers and some owners in the state, oppose the effort to ban the raceday use of the drug. The effort is also opposed by most state horsemen’s organizations, including the National HBPA. KHBPA representatives did not immediately return phone calls on Friday morning.

In addition to Farmer, members of the Race Day Medication Committee are Wade Houston, Betsy Lavin, Alan Leavitt, Dr. Foster Northrup, and Dr. Jerry Yon. Committee actions normally require a simple majority of the members present in order to pass.