03/21/2005 1:00AM

Virginia stiffens drug rules

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The Virginia Racing Commission has adopted new and more stringent medication rules, the commission's executive director, Stan Bowker, said Monday.

The new rules are based on the recommendations of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, a national group of racing officials. The rules, which will be in effect for the upcoming summer meet at Virginia's only racetrack, Colonial Downs, prohibit the use of any drug on race day other than the diuretic Lasix, which is used to treat bleeding in the lungs.

Under the new rules, the Virginia commission is also beginning a prerace testing program for alkalizing agents. Since 1997, the state has tested for alkalizing agents using postrace blood samples. Prerace testing is considered more effective by many racing officials.

The new rules will include strict penalties for trainers whose horses test positive for a banned substance, according to Anne Poulson, the chairman of the commission.

For instance, any trainer whose horse tests positive for a so-called Category 1 drug - performance-enhancers with no legitimate therapeutic benefit to a horse, such as cocaine - will have his license revoked. In addition, the state will prohibit horsemen from transferring horses to assistant trainers while on suspension.

"Violations of medication rules can no longer be just a cost of doing business for trainers and other participants," Poulson said.