Updated on 08/28/2012 6:14PM

New Kentucky drug rules stopped by committee

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Regulations set to take effect in Kentucky on Sept. 6 that would have banned all raceday medications other than furosemide and lowered the threshold level for the allowable amount of the painkiller phenylbutazone in postrace tests were struck down on Tuesday by a state legislative committee.

The committee voted 19-1 to find the regulations “deficient” after representatives of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association took issue with the new requirements in testimony in front of the committee. With the vote, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will be unable to enforce the regulations without action by Gov. Steve Beshear to overrule the committee’s action.

“We will have some conversations with the horse racing commission and others before deciding how we will move forward,” Gov. Beshear said in an e-mailed response forwarded by his communications staff. Kerri Richardson, Beshear’s communications director, said that it was not clear whether Beshear would decide on a course of action before Sept. 6, when the regulations were set to go into effect.

The regulations, passed last year by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission over the objections of the state’s Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, would have banned the raceday use of so-called “adjunct bleeder medications” – carbazochrome, transexamic acid, and aminocaproic acid. The regulations would also lower the threshold level for phenylbutazone, commonly called Bute, to 2 micrograms from 5 micrograms and restrict raceday administrations of furosemide, the anti-bleeding medication commonly known as Lasix, to state veterinarians.

All three provisions have been endorsed by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, an organization that includes the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association on its board, and many major racing states have adopted the rules over the past 12 months as part of a larger effort to address public-perception concerns about the sport’s medication policies.

Damon Thayer, a state senator who is a member of the Kentucky Racing Commission’s Equine Drug Research Council, an advisory group on medication policy, called the opposition by the Kentucky horsemen’s group an “ambush.” He accused the organization of lobbying against the rules because of its frustration over a regulation passed this year phasing out the raceday use of furosemide in 2-year-old stakes races beginning in 2014.

The rule phasing out furosemide has not yet been submitted to the legislature for approval, but horsemen have vowed to fight it as it winds its way through the legislative approval process. Horsemen contend that furosemide is effective in mitigating bleeding from the lungs.

“This was not about yesterday’s regulations,” said Thayer, who was the only legislator to vote for the regulations on Monday. “This was about muddying the waters on the new Lasix phase-out, which is next in the hopper.”

Marty Maline, the executive director of the Kentucky horsemen’s association, said horsemen objected to the three new rules on their merits. He did not, however, deny that the opposition had a political component, claiming that the commission went back on a promise to protect raceday furosemide use when it passed the phase-out earlier this year.

“Right as these regulations started going forward this year, they dropped the Lasix bomb on us,” Maline said. “When they didn’t keep their promise, all bets were off, and it allowed us to re-emphasize our concerns to these issues.”

According to Maline, horsemen objected to the rule restricting the administration of raceday furosemide to state veterinarians because it would have created problems with the “trainer responsibility rule,” which holds the trainer accountable for any postrace positives regardless of circumstances. Supporters of the restriction have said that it protects bettors by restricting raceday access to state vets.

Maline said the horsemen objected to the rule lowering the threshold level for phenylbutazone because the existing threshold level is adequate in enforcing a 24-hour ban on the drug before post. Supporters of the rule have said that the new 2-microgram threshold level ensures that the horse is not feeling any effects of the drug when being checked for soundness during prerace veterinary exams.

As for the rule prohibiting adjunct bleeder medications, Maline said horsemen believed the drugs were effective in combating bleeding. Supporters of a ban have said that there is no scientific proof to support the drugs’ efficacy. Adjuncts were previously legal in only a few states, and most have banned them over the past several years.

The conflict over raceday medications – specifically furosemide – has pitted horsemen’s groups against prominent owner-breeder organizations such as the Jockey Club and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, which released a joint statement Tuesday that was critical of the Kentucky HBPA’s lobbying for the three regulations to be struck down.

“We found it disappointing that individual members of the Kentucky HBPA and racetrack veterinarians, fearful of any changes in the use of the race-day drug Lasix, are attempting to hold hostage new Kentucky racing rules designed to promote the health, welfare, and safety of the Thoroughbred racehorse,” the statement said.

Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
I only recently bc interested in horseracing after 30 years of not even following the KD. IHA perked me up this year bc he was a possible TC winner. After 3-4 big stakes races he was done, without the TC. He's been the first of an all star lineup to retire. I don't know if he was ever given anything illegal ( or any of the other contenders) but horses aren't supposed to 'take drugs'. They are pure. Legal or otherwise, drugs are bad on the organs, muscles and psyche. If drugs are bad for people, why would anyone dilute a pure gene pool of a thoroughbred racehorse. It's out of contol. Maybe not intentionally, but the industry is to blame for allowing even the most innocuous medication. Maybe they wouldn't get sick if they were never given anything. Today's 'champs' are no where near the greats like Man o'War, Secretariat, etc. Just like people, they become dependent on that boost to even move let alone race.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
19/1 in favor of cheating,kind of tells you all you need to know about why the feds should take over or shut the whole industry down.their same old tired arguments are made,like the horses will go to where drugs are allowed (well you are the home of the countrys most important race and if you change others will follow,every owner wants to win the derby and they wil know it has to be done with a clean horse).the fact is the people voting this down are either directly profiting from the use of raceday meds or being influenced by the lobby of people who do.asking vets to ban medication is like asking an arsonist if something should be allowed to burn.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What's a 'disgrace' is states like California, New York and Florida not even trying. How can KY ban drugs when every other state allows them? Trainers will simply pick another state to run their horses in leaving KY with none. KY won't be able to ban drugs until other states do as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
They don't want the drug rule changes because it would lead to a mass exodus of horses with trainers who want to keep using drugs. Shame on other states for not trying to enact the same rules. If these rules where enforced there would be small fields because trainers will run their horses in states where these drugs are legal. At least Kentucky is trying. Other states need to get on board.
russell More than 1 year ago
Complete disgrace.
William Hawk More than 1 year ago
crooked motherfu**ers!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
how are they more crooked than other states that aren't even thinking about banning drugs? Hat's off to KY for at least trying. More than we can say for many other states. Talking about you New York, Florida and California
nancy gallagher More than 1 year ago
At the end of the day, who started this inane battle, it was the Jockey Club and TOBA, now they cry foul, give me a break. Drop the lasix issue, it doesn't solve any of the major issues that the industry needs to address. Pr
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
It's a start. The horse shouldn't be running if he bleeds. Lasix is a bandaid the horse becomes dependent upon.
jttf More than 1 year ago
the drugs are great for the industry. look at how many 3 year olds have gone down the tubes. cant run a belmont stakes race under 2 minutes and 30 seconds, anymore.
Tom Delaney More than 1 year ago
My grandfather was an avid horseplayer. In the late 60's, as a teenager, when I was out for the night, I use to stop at the newstand at around 12:30 AM to get him a copy of the Morning Telegraph for the races on Saturday which he attended at he now defunct Garden State Park track in Cherry Hill, NJ. I retired last year and along with a close friend started going to the track at Parx in PA. We really enjoyed ourselves but I have to say that with all the drug issues and obvious neglect by the governing bodies, I may buy another fishing boat. You folks are obviousy insiders to all of these issues but how do you think your sport will survive let along grow if casual players like my friend and I don't think we're getting a fair play for our hard earned bucks. We don't mind losing because we're inept. We're willing to pay our dues to learn the game but we won't stick around if there's even a hint that it's a fixed game. Easy solution, "No drugs" period. If the horse can't run without them, he's retired, end of story.
Joe More than 1 year ago
WE love new people in the game, but, there are certain drugs that are important. Lasix is 1 of them it prevents a horse from bleeding. I applaud the decision by the state legislative commission.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Joe. The use of lasix is needed. But read the fine print. They are also allowing adjunct meds to help bleeders. Race day. So to ensure honesty they need to stop this and ensure its stopped by only allowing state vets to give lasix. Othrrwise eho knoes whats in that needle?
Jon Cohen More than 1 year ago
Bravo Rick Hiles, great job standing up to the elitist bullies. Phipps, TOBA, and the other big mouths simply think that they can steamroll the industry with their ridiculous rulemaking not based in any common sense. They are mistaken. Despite what shills for these clowns like Ray Paulick would have you believe, this attempted Junta of the racing industry is a joke, and doomed.
kingsailor2 More than 1 year ago
How will they ever keep their stud fees up now if they can't "thin the herd" with their lasix ban? The Jockey Club and TOBA may actually have to promote the industry instead of knocking it down every minute.
Bridget Lind More than 1 year ago
Okay, then why doesn't Europe use raceday Lasix, and their horses run a lot more and breakdown less??