08/14/2008 12:00AM

Kentucky panel passes strict steroid rule


The Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council on Thursday approved a strict new rule designed to regulate the administration of anabolic steroids to racehorses, setting in motion the formal adoption of the rule by the end of the year.

The rule - which contains provisions that prohibit all but three anabolic steroids from being administered within 60 days of a race - will now be sent to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for a vote. Rules regarding medication in Kentucky must first be approved by the drug council before being considered by the commission, which is next scheduled to meet on Aug. 25.

Kentucky is one of a number of states that do not currently regulate the administration of anabolic steroids but are in the process of putting in place rules that are being aggressively pushed by a number of national racing organizations in response to public criticism of the sport.

However, the model rule that most states have adopted or are in the process of adopting prohibits anabolic steroids from being administered within 30 days of a race, not 60, making Kentucky's proposed rule more restrictive.

Under the Kentucky rule, all anabolic steroids would be prohibited except for boldenone, nandrolone, and testosterone. Notably, stanozolol, the most commonly used anabolic steroid in racing, would be prohibited, even though the model rule allows the drug - which is marketed as Winstrol - to be administered 30 days outside of a race, along with the other three anabolics.

In addition, the Kentucky rule would treat synthetic anabolic steroids as Class A drugs, which carry the most severe penalties; boldenone, nandrolone, and testosterone, which occur naturally in all male horses, would be treated as Class B drugs. The model rule classifies all anabolic steroids as Class B drugs.

Damon Thayer, a state senator who is the legislative appointment to the drug council, said after the meeting that he supported the relative severity of the rule.

"I've always said that Kentucky should be a leader in this area," Thayer said. "We hold the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks every year. We've hosted the Breeders' Cup more than any other state. We're the horse capital of the world. We need to stake out a leadership position, and we have."

Twelve states have already adopted the model rule regulating the administration of the drugs, which can be used to build muscle mass, restore appetite, and help horses recover from exercise. Several studies have indicated that up to 60 percent of horses receive regular injections of the drugs in states where anabolic steroids are not regulated.

In Kentucky, rules passed by the racing commission must be reviewed by a legislative committee and then posted for public comment for a 60-day period. After the public-comment period, the rule must be approved by the legislature.

Kentucky racing officials said that they hope the rule will be formally approved through all the appropriate channels by the end of 2008. Testing for the drugs would begin in 2009, the officials said, though implementation of the rule would be preceded by a 90-day grace period in which warnings will be issued instead of penalties.

The rule allows a trainer to void a claim if a postrace drug test on the claimed horse turns up a positive for anabolic steroids. The trainer who filed the claim must ask for the test.