12/11/2003 1:00AM

Medication reform moves forward


TUCSON, Ariz. - Regulators and racing officials representing 24 racing jurisdictions in the United States largely agreed with the main elements of a medication policy that would lead to model rules that states can adopt, according to participants in a meeting in Tucson on Wednesday.

"The great news is that the heart and soul of the policy resonated very well with the group," said Lonny Powell, the president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International. Powell and Scott Waterman, the executive director of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Task Force on Drug Testing and Medication, said that the changes requested by the regulators were limited to "semantics and logistics," but both declined to describe the changes in detail. The policy document was developed by leaders of an effort to reform medication rules.

Wednesday's 3 1/2-hour meeting came nearly two years to the day since an effort to draft a model-rules document was started, also in Tucson, at the University of Arizona's Symposium on Racing. The goal of the effort has been to persuade states to adopt regulations that will allow for uniform medication rules in every U.S. racing jurisdiction.

The actual document has not been released, but it was distributed to regulators several months ago in advance of Wednesday's meeting. Waterman acknowledged on Wednesday that the model rules permit the use of one race-day medication, the diuretic Lasix, which is used to treat pulmonary hemorrhage in nearly 90 percent of all racehorses. The document also allows for unidentified drugs to be present in a horse's system on race day provided the amounts are under a certain threshold level, and also allows for the possibility of additional legal race-day drugs if scientific evidence backs up the decision.

Waterman said that recommendations from the regulators will be worked into the document and presented to the board of directors of the Drug-Testing and Medication Consortium, the organization that is leading the efforts, by the end of January. Completed portions of the document will then be forwarded to a joint committee of the RCI and the North American Pari-Mutuel Regulators Association to be converted into rules that can be adopted by state racing commissions.

Waterman stressed that the process to adopt model rules will happen in stages, perhaps over several years.