12/08/2003 1:00AM

Meeting a big step toward model rules


Leaders in the effort to reform medication rules will meet Wednesday in Tucson, Ariz., to offer suggestions and criticisms for a uniform medication policy that many officials hope will be adopted by racing jurisdictions next year.

The meeting will "be an important first step to taking the model rules to the states," said Dr. Scott Waterman, the executive director of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Task Force on Drug Testing and Medication.

A wide-ranging group of racing officials and regulators, which has informally been called the medication consortium, has been working on the model-rules document for nearly two years, in the hopes that one set of rules can be ratified by every state and horsemen's group.

Wednesday's meeting will bring together approximately 60 racing officials, mostly state regulators, according to Waterman. Only two racing jurisdictions will not be represented, Waterman said, but only because of budget restrictions on travel.

"It's to sit down with all the regulators and give them the opportunity to tell us whether we're brilliant or we're nuts," Waterman said. "We'll take their comments back to the consortium board and tweak the document from there."

The model-rules document has been kept confidential in an effort to build consensus before its public release. Officials have said the document would allow for only one legal raceday medication, the diuretic Lasix, which is used to treat pulmonary hemorrhaging in nearly 90 percent of horses.

Racing officials involved in the effort have said that the model rules have received informal support from nearly every racing jurisdiction in the country, including those in Kentucky, which has the most liberal medication rules. However, many horsemen in Kentucky are opposed to a rollback in the state's rules and have indicated that they intend to oppose any effort to restrict medication usage.

Waterman said the model rules are currently in "policy form" and will need to be changed in order to be adopted by states. He said the consortium board will meet in January to discuss revisions and then forward the policy document to a joint committee of the two regulatory associations in North America, the Association of Racing Commissioners International, and the North American Pari-Mutuel Regulators Association. That committee will then transform the language into rules that can be adopted by states.

Wednesday's meeting will take place on the first day of the University of Arizona's Symposium on Racing, the largest annual racing conference in North America. Topics at this year's Symposium include intellectual property rights, regulation of racing, marketing horses, and the retention and recruitment of owners.

On Friday, the Symposium will focus on the controversial practice of rebating, as well as new developments in wagering and totalizator technologies. For the past five years, the Friday program was dominated by the NTRA, which had overseen a two-hour presentation for a year-end review. The NTRA and the Symposium's planners jointly decided to skip the presentation this year, according to NTRA officials and representatives of the University of Arizona's Race Track Industry Program, which administers the Symposium.