01/14/2005 12:00AM

Kentucky nears vote on Lasix-only

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The Kentucky Equine Drug Council may vote on whether the state should adopt a Lasix-only drug policy on race day as soon as Feb. 4, the chairwoman of the council, Connie Whitfield, said on Friday.

The council met on Friday at the Kentucky Horse Park outside of Lexington, its second meeting since being reformulated under the administration of Gov. Ernie Fletcher. Whitfield said the council debated the merits of the Lasix-only policy, which is advocated by an industry-wide group called the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, as its primary order of business.

The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association is opposed to the policy, and Susan Bunning, the president of the association, presented the group's position at the meeting at the request of the council. Whitfield said the horsemen's association's presentation supported the "status quo" in the state, which allows for Lasix, several other anti-bleeding medications, and the administration of up to three anti-inflammatories on race day.

Representatives of the KHBPA did not return phone calls on Friday.

Whitfield said she planned to discuss the planned vote with council members before the Feb. 4 vote. "I want to make sure the process is fair, and I want to make sure that the council feels they have all their questions answered," Whitfield said. She said the vote could be delayed if council members are not comfortable proceeding.

The council is charged with recommending drug policies to the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, which would have to approve any recommendations made by the council.

Several council members, most notably the Thoroughbred trainer John T. Ward and Kentucky Sen. Damon Thayer, have aggressively pushed for Kentucky to adopt the Lasix-only policy. Kentucky is considered to have the most permissive drug policy in the U.S.