07/13/2005 12:00AM

Kentucky opens drug probe


The Kentucky Office of the Inspector General has formally opened an investigation into whether the former Kentucky Racing Commission failed to enforce rules regarding possible drug violations in 2002 and 2003, the deputy inspector general said Wednesday.

The deputy, John Holiday, confirmed that the inspector general's office had opened the investigation at the request of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, the successor to the racing commission. Holiday said, however, that he could not comment beyond the confirmation because of internal policies.

The authority requested the investigation on Monday with the endorsement of LaJuana Wilcher, the secretary of the state's Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet. Both the racing authority and the inspector general's office are within Wilcher's cabinet.

Mark York, a spokesman for the cabinet, said Wednesday that the inspector general would issue a report about its findings in the investigation to the racing authority and the cabinet. The authority would then determine what action to take next, York said, including the possibility of asking the Kentucky state police or attorney general to pursue any potential criminal charges.

The inspector general's investigation will join an inquiry by the state's Interim Joint Subcommittee on Licensing and Occupations, which requested documents about the allegations from the authority's executive director, Jim Gallagher, after he testified about the findings at a hearing on July 8.

Gallagher has said that the former racing commission failed to announce positive drug tests for approximately 20 horses in 2002 and 2003, and that commission personnel changed rules regarding allowable threshold levels for drug concentrations in urine and blood samples in order to suppress the results.

Gallagher said he began uncovering the positives shortly after being appointed executive director of the authority in September 2004. The authority was formed in early 2004 after Gov. Ernie Fletcher disbanded the Kentucky Racing Commission following his election in 2003.

Gallagher said late Tuesday that he could not comment on details of the case because of the inspector general's formal investigation. Walter Hyde, the director of the Iowa State University drug-testing laboratory that Gallagher said helped in his investigation, also said he could not comment.