05/20/2008 12:00AM

Kentucky takes step to regulate steroids


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council formed two subcommittees at a meeting on Tuesday to provide the council with information about the potential regulation of anabolic steroids and how to improve the state's necropsy program.

The formation of the subcommittees was the first concrete step by Kentucky regulators to address the regulation of anabolic steroids, which are currently legal to administer in the state. Members of the council said at the meeting that regulators agree that the state's rules regarding anabolic steroid use will likely change, though differences appear to exist on whether to support a rule that allows for the limited use of four anabolic steroids or a rule that would ban the drugs altogether.

Connie Whitfield, the chairwoman of the council, proposed the motion to form the subcommittee, contending that Kentucky regulators needed "basic facts so that people at a decision-making level can be confident in making decisions."

The council is an offshoot of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, and it issues recommendations to the full regulatory body on medication rules. In the past, the council has played a large role in shaping medication policies that are eventually adopted in the state.

A number of U.S. states have already passed a rule recommended by the Association of Racing Commissioners International that would allow for the use of four anabolic steroids but prohibit all other forms of the powerful drugs. The RCI and several national racing organizations are pressuring racing states to adopt the rules before Jan. 1.

It is unclear if Kentucky will meet that deadline. The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has raised questions about the validity of current testing methods and has so far been reluctant to embrace the recommended rule.

John Ward, a trainer who is a member of the council and a board member of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium - which is funding research into testing methods for anabolic steroids - said at the meeting that the council should draw much of its information from the RMTC. Research into several new testing procedures is expected to be completed by September.

Ward urged the council to adopt regulations on an expedited basis after the research is complete.

"When we do it, we need to do it right, because we can't afford to fall behind," Ward said.

The necropsy subcommittee was formed to study the state's existing necropsy procedures and issue recommendations on how to expand the program. The state had initially attempted to perform a necropsy on every horse that died during a race, but funding for the program was not adequate to pay for all the procedures.

No members were appointed to either committee at the meeting. Whitfield said she planned to appoint the committee members by the end of the week.