06/19/2008 11:00PM

New Jersey steroid plan blocked

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A Superior Court in New Jersey has ruled that the state's racing commission cannot go forward with a rule regulating the administration of anabolic steroids until it complies with provisions of the state's open-meetings law.

The ruling was issued in response to a lawsuit filed by the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association alleging that the commission was in violation of the open-meetings law when discussing the rule. The ruling may put in jeopardy the commission's plan to pass a rule regulating anabolic steroids this year.

Dennis Drazin, the general counsel of the horsemen's group, said on Friday that horsemen do not oppose the rule, which is currently being adopted in substantially similar forms in many of the nation's 38 racing jurisdictions, "but we want the commission to understand that you can't go into a back room and decide this."

Frank Zanzuccki, the executive director of the racing commission, said that the commission would appeal the ruling, and he denied that regulators were attempting to promulgate the rule without input from horsemen.

A number of national racing groups are pushing states to adopt the anabolic-steroid rule by the end of the year, citing the pressure being applied by federal legislators and the general public.

Zanzuccki said that the ruling would almost certainly delay the commission's efforts to pass the rule beyond the end of the year.

"The ruling says that we must 'abandon' any steroid rule," he said. "Unless things change, we will not be able to have a rule in place by January."

Drazin said that he believes the rule can still be adopted by the end of the year if the commission agrees quickly to involve horsemen in the process.