11/19/2003 1:00AM

Kentucky drug plan draws heat


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A discussion regarding a uniform medication policy whereby Lasix would be the only medication given to horses on race day was met largely with resistance from Kentucky trainers and veterinarians in a meeting at Churchill Downs on Tuesday.

The meeting was the second public hearing in Kentucky regarding a proposed policy that would restrict the use of medication and seek to create medication uniformity from state to state. Members of the Kentucky Racing Commission, horsemen, and racetrack practitioners attended the meeting, along with Lonny Powell, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, and Dr. Scot Waterman, the executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.

The hearing was organized following the announcement earlier this fall by Frank Shoop, chairman of the state's racing commission, that he supports the consortium's plan to create national guidelines that would ban all drugs other than Lasix, the anti-bleeding drug now sold under the name Salix, on race day.

Kentucky currently allows a wide range of medication and has what is widely considered to be the most liberal medication policy in the country.

A majority of the attendees in the Tuesday meeting reacted harshly to the consortium's recommendations. Some Kentucky horsemen, mainly trainers and veterinarians, feel they were excluded from the medication consortium, which consists of 26 representatives - largely from racetracks and breeders' associations.

Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said that "the vast majority" of Kentucky horsemen "favor keeping Kentucky's medication policy as it is. We strongly urged the commission to not try to fix something that's not broken."

Powell told the policy's detractors in the meeting that a uniform medication policy could not be implemented under Kentucky's current rules, and to oppose the consortium's recommendations would reflect poorly on the state's image.

Maline said New York's old practice of no raceday medication, commonly referred to as "hay, oats, and water," had been a facade. A Lasix-only policy could similarly fail, he said. The Kentucky horsemen's association supports uniform rules regarding universal testing, plus threshold and withdrawal time standards, Maline said.

The consortium will announce its proposal to the racing industry Dec. 10 during the Symposium on Racing in Tucson, Ariz.