01/30/2008 12:00AM

Maryland delays steroid action

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The Maryland Racing Commission will delay implementing rules regulating the use of anabolic steroids until at least the start of 2009, the commission's chairman said on Tuesday.

Late last year, Maryland was one of six states in the mid-Atlantic that said they hoped to put in place regulations for anabolic steroids by April 1, 2008. Horsemen's groups have objected to that date, however, claiming that more testing needs to be done to determine threshold levels for the drugs.

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, a national group that issues recommendations on drug regulations, has already recommended a rule that would allow for the use of four commonly used steroids but ban all other anabolics. The four permitted steroids would not be able to be used within 30 days of a race.

Maryland's delay is happening because the state needs to determine how to conduct the tests - blood and urine screens are available - how to structure the rules, and what sort of penalties to adopt, said the racing commission's chairman, John Franzone.

"There's so much confusion about how you actually test for this," Franzone said.

Any rules the commission approves would be subject to a public comment period and would take several months to complete.

"Right now, we're trying to begin the process," said J. Michael Hopkins, the commission's executive director.