12/01/2006 12:00AM

Steroid use will be on symposium's agenda

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An influential group will recommend next week at the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing that the industry adopt rules to regulate the administration of anabolic steroids to racehorses, one of the sport's most controversial subjects.

The group, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, is expected to discuss its recommendation on Thursday, the last day of the three-day annual conference. The consortium was formed five years ago at the 2001 Symposium on Racing, the result of an unusual meeting that represented a broad coalition of industry officials. Ever since, the group has pressured racing commissions and horsemen's groups to adopt model rules that it has developed to govern racing medications.

Dr. Rick Arthur, the medical director for the California Horse Racing Board, is scheduled to give the consortium's presentation on anabolic steroids during a panel entitled "Safe and Sound." Arthur has been a critic of steroid use.

Anabolic steroids are used at

nearly every level of a horse's racing career, administered to help horses recover from strenuous exercise, to stimulate their appetites, and to build muscle mass. The United States is the only major racing country that does not regulate the administration of anabolic steroids to racehorses.

Any recommendation to regulate anabolic steroids is likely to be accompanied by debate. Many horsemen, breeders, and veterinarians advocate anabolic steroid use as a legitimate therapeutic drug.

The consortium announced earlier this year that it had begun to study the possible regulation of anabolic steroids, citing the concerns raised in other racing jurisdictions about the drugs and their unsavory reputation in other sports.

According to Dr. Scot Waterman, the executive director of the consortium, the group's presentation will focus on the need to regulate

anabolic steroids, but not any specific regulations.

"What we'll be doing is laying out the case for why regulation is necessary, and why it's a good idea," Waterman said. "I don't think anyone is ready yet for the actual regulations."

In part, Waterman said, the consortium's strategy is an acknowledgement of how controversial the recommendation is expected to be.

"We know that this is going to meet a lot of resistance, at least from some quarters of the industry," Waterman said.

Other racing topics on the symposium agenda include wagering integrity, regulatory reform, marketing, and Internet gambling. In addition, the symposium - which has taken on an increasingly casino-centric character as the sport's economics have become tied to slot machines - is offering a slate of panels on gambling issues.

This year's symposium will be held at the Westin La Paloma resort in north Tucson, a change of venue from its usual location at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. The symposium, now in its 23rd year, is administered by the university's Race Track Industry Program.