10/17/2002 12:00AM

National drug group to incorporate

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The national group seeking to reform medication rules in the U.S. is preparing to incorporate by the end of the year, officials with the group said after a two-day meeting in Lexington, Ky., this week.

The group, whose members are calling themselves the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, reached agreement on bylaws, voting procedures, and a structure for a board of directors during the Oct. 15-16 meeting, according to the consortium's spokesman, Dr. Scot Waterman, the director of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Drug Testing and Medication Task Force. Waterman said the group plans to file articles of incorporation within the next three months.

"We believe that we are now an organization," Waterman said. "We have the articles of incorporation and the bylaws pretty much done. There will be some minor changes, but they will be filed by the end of the year."

The Kentucky meeting was the consortium's fourth since an informal medication summit in December at the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing. The group is hoping to develop model medication and drug-testing rules that could be adopted by all states.

Already, the consortium has released a position paper endorsing the administration of only one drug on race day, the diuretic Lasix, which is used to treat bleeding. The Lasix-only policy puts the group at odds with more liberal regulations in many states, most notably Kentucky.

Waterman said that the 29 members who attended the most recent meeting spent 80 percent of their time on the model rules document. The policy will likely offer recommendations on medication rules, threshold levels, backstretch security, and testing procedures, Waterman said.

"Portions of it are finished, but there are some obvious holes, and those holes are the types of things that are going to take a lot of time to fill," Waterman said.

The group currently has received pledges of $700,000 from participating organizations, Waterman said. It hopes to eventually raise $2 million to $4 million a year for its budget, perhaps by assessing a $5 per-starter fee at racetracks.

The group also hopes to use most of its budget to fund both projects to develop new drug tests and studies analyzing the effect and efficacy of popular equine drugs.

Waterman said the group hopes to begin soliciting proposals for studies from the scientific community by the end of the year. He said the consortium plans to spend most of its $700,000 commitment on the studies.

"If we get good proposals that are good science, we'll use almost every dollar we have on them," Waterman said.