10/24/2005 12:00AM

Ky. may lift gastric tube ban


The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority plans to modify its new medication rules to allow for the use and possession of nasal-gastric tubes and will seek to adopt withdrawal guidelines for therapeutic drugs, authority officials said Monday at a public hearing.

Jim Gallagher, the executive director of the authority, said at the hearing that the group is hoping to respond to concerns raised by some trainers and veterinarians about new rules that went into effect on Sept. 7 on an emergency basis. The rules, which limit race-day drugs to the diuretic furosemide and several other anti-bleeding medications, are currently in the state's formal adoption process.

Monday's hearing was held to give members of the public an opportunity to comment on the rules in advance of a Oct. 31 deadline for written comments. About 40 people attended the hearing, and 16 spoke. About half of the speakers spoke in support of the new rules, while the other half either issued blanket criticisms or offered suggestions.

Veterinarians had complained about the prohibition on nasal-gastric tubes in the new rules, saying that the tubes had legitimate uses for treating horses. Nasal-gastric tubes can also be used to administer "milkshakes," illegal concoctions of baking soda and electrolytes that are thought to reduce the effects of fatigue on racehorses.

In addition, Gallagher said that the authority had already distributed questionnaires to racetrack veterinarians seeking input on withdrawal guidelines when horsemen should stop administering a drug in order to avoid a post-race positive.

The authority will also look to the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, a national group seeking to reform horse racing's drug rules, for help on the guidelines, Gallagher said. On Friday, the RMTC said that it had enlisted Dr. Rick Sams, a professor in Ohio State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, to develop withdrawal guidelines on commonly used therapeutic drugs.