03/27/2012 6:28PM

Kentucky representative calls for renewed support of anti-drug bill


Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky, called late on Tuesday for renewed support for legislation he introduced last year that would subject horse racing to federal regulation and ban the use of furosemide, a diuretic commonly known as Lasix, on race day.

Whitfield, in a release, said that he would push for the adoption of the legislation in the wake of the publication of an article Sunday in the New York Times outlining injuries at racetracks over the past three years. In the statement, Whitfield reiterated claims in the article that the use of drugs in racing was putting horses and jockeys in danger of being injured.

"For too long, the safety of jockeys and equine athletes has been neglected for the pursuit of racing profits," Whitfield said. "The doping of injured horses and forcing them to compete is deplorable and must be stopped. Despite repeated promises from the racing industry to end this practice, voluntary meaningful action and oversight are not going to happen."

Last year, Whitfield and Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat from New Mexico, introduced a bill that would have placed racing under the oversight of the Food and Drug Administration, which would be responsible for drafting rules on the use of medications in racing. The bill would also subject any trainer who tests positive for a "performance-enhancing" drug three times to a lifetime ban, although the bill did not define what would constitute a performance-enhancing drug. In addition, the bill would ban the raceday use of drugs.

In most racing jurisdictions, the only legal raceday drug is the anti-bleeding medication furosemide. As a diuretic, the drug reduces capillary pressure. In a handful of racing jurisdictions, several other anti-bleeding medications are legal to administer in conjunction with furosemide.

The Times article focused on both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing in New Mexico, the state that Udall represents.  Udall released a statement on Monday calling for support of the legislation, which was opposed by most racing organizations when it was introduced last year.

The Times article was the first in a series the newspaper plans to run on injuries in horse racing. On Tuesday, the newspaper's editorial board contended that the main reason for the injuries was "drugs" and said that a "powerful combination of money, secrecy and inattention has blocked progress and left the industry as compromised and dangerous as ever."