08/26/2010 3:55PM

Rules set for expanded Kentucky blood tests

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – A joint committee of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Thursday approved a set of rules governing a program that will allow regulators to test horses for banned substances such as blood-enhancing drugs at any time or place.

The rules will be sent to the full commission, which is scheduled to consider them as emergency regulations at a meeting on Sept. 7. The rules are being pushed through the process on an expedited basis because of the desire to have an out-of-competition testing program in place in time for the Nov. 5-6 Breeders’ Cup event at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

The rules were discussed and debated for nearly three hours on Thursday by the commission’s Rules Committee and the Equine Drug Research Council. Under the rules, the commission will have the authority to test samples from horses regardless of where the horses are located, including other racing states. That capability generated an intense amount of discussion on how the commission could enforce its authority across state lines.

“I think the reality of this is that there are some horses that we are going to miss,” said Dr. Mary Scollay, the commission’s equine medical director, when referring to horses who are stabled out of state by trainers without a Kentucky racing license.

While regulators can pull samples from horses stabled in Kentucky under a variety of legal options, it becomes far more difficult to enforce any actions in another state, according to attorneys. Under the Kentucky rule, any owner or trainer who refuses to cooperate with the program will be denied a Kentucky racing license, though the exact length of that ban had yet to be determined late on Tuesday afternoon.

Regulators have increasingly come to believe that out-of-competition testing is necessary because of the potential abuse of blood-enhancing drugs like erythropoietin and darbepoeitin, two banned substances that are typically administered well before a race, are difficult to detect several days after administration, and have long-lasting performance-enhancing effects. The testing programs also focus on powerful painkillers such as cobra venom and other synthetic neurotoxins that also are difficult to detect and have enduring effects.

Committee members also continued to debate late Tuesday afternoon the penalty that would be assessed if a horse tested positive for any of the banned substances included in the rule, but most committee members favored an “up to” 10-year ban, in line with out-of-competition testing programs in other states. Alan Leavitt, a Standardbred owner and breeder, forcefully called for a 10-year ban because of what he said were his concerns that blood-enhancing was “ruining” Standardbred racing.

Breeders’ Cup officials would not comment on whether the company’s host-site agreement with Churchill Downs to host the event “absolutely” required an out-of-competition testing program to be in place. In previous years, out-of-competition testing was conducted for the two Santa Anita Park events in 2008 and 2009 under a program approved for Breeders’ Cup horses, and at Monmouth Park in 2007 under a state program authorizing out-of-competition testing for all horses.

“There is recourse if the testing regulations are not in place,” said Matt Lutz, the chief financial officer of Breeders’ Cup, on Wednesday. “But that’s not what we’re focused on. Ideally [the rules] are in place for all of racing in Kentucky before the event.”

Only four states – Indiana, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York – and one Canadian province, Ontario, have drafted rules regarding out-of-competition testing. The rules in New York have not yet gone into effect, but will later this year.