09/13/2002 11:00PM

Tighter Ky. drug rules


The Kentucky Racing Commission, which presides over the country's most liberal jurisdiction for medication, plans to consider a proposal that would cut the number of drugs allowed on race day from 16 to five, while establishing threshold levels for other medications.

Kentucky has been under intense pressure to change its drug policy since an industry-wide coalition was formed last year to push for uniform medication rules. But the Kentucky horsemen's group and a number of veterinarians have contended that the state's drug rules should not be tightened.

Frank Shoop, chairman of the Kentucky commission, said on Friday that he is "very confident" the proposal will pass when it is considered at meeting on Sept. 24. If the commission approves the measures, the rules could be in effect for the opening of the Keeneland meet on Oct. 4, Shoop said.

"We've been building a consensus on this for the past week or 10 days," Shoop said. "Frankly, I've encountered very little resistance to it as this point."

While the proposal would limit horsemen to five medications on race day, the rules still give trainers and veterinarians wide latitude in determining which medications can be administered. The proposal would also allow an undetermined number of drugs to be present in postrace blood and urine samples as long as they did not exceed certain threshold levels.

Under the proposal, on race day trainers would be allowed to administer, alone or in combination, no more than two non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, namely Bute and one of three other medications; one steroidal anti-inflammatory medication from a list of four; and two anti-bleeding medications, the diuretic furosemide (Lasix), and aminocaproic acid, a blood-clotting agent. Kentucky's rules currently allow for the administration of any or all of 16 different drugs on race day.

The proposal is getting support from a number of people who say the rule change will at least be a stepping-stone to even more restrictive policies."I think this is a step in the right direction," said Alice Chandler, a Kentucky breeder and a member of the commission's Equine Drug Council. "I'm not sure if it goes far enough."

"This is getting us much closer to how they do things in the rest of the nation," said David Switzer, the executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, who is involved in the national reform effort.

Dr. Jerry Johnson, a Kentucky veterinarian who worked on the proposal, said that the changes could repair some of the damage to Kentucky's image. Johnson said, however, that most of the criticism of Kentucky is unwarranted. "We are under attack because we could give so many drugs to horses on race day," Johnson said. "We didn't necessarily see that as fair. So this is a little revision. We wanted to show that we are still on the forefront."

Marty Maline, the executive director of the the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which has so far refused to participate in the national reform effort, said that the KHBPA has not received a copy of the proposal. He said the KHBPA would decide whether to support the rules after reviewing the proposal.