Saturday, October 4, 2003

Chairman seeks stricter race-day drug standards

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - The chairman of the Kentucky Racing Commission said he wants limits on anti-bleeding drugs for horses on race days.

Although Kentucky imposed medication restrictions a year ago, it still has the loosest horse-drug policy of any state, allowing multiple anti-inflammation drugs to be used on race day.

Commission Chairman Frank Shoop wants to make Salix - formerly called Lasix - the only anti-bleeding drug permitted on race day.

Shoop also pressed for national drug and testing rules at a commission meeting Thursday.

"If we're going to have uniform race day, we have to have a drug test everyone adheres to, to make sure the playing field is level," Shoop said.

Critics of existing medication rules say years of reliance has weakened the breed. Supporters say clamping down on anti-inflammation drugs will keep more horses out of races.

Shoop said the commission will hold several hearings this fall on medication rules. He said he expects the national Racing Medication and Testing Consortium to back the Salix-only rule when it meets in December. Shoop said the consortium should make a recommendation soon for all racing states to embrace. Scot Waterman, the consortium's executive director, would not discuss details of the policy.

"I cannot overemphasize how important I feel that this is," Shoop said.

But Shoop, a Democrat, acknowledges he may not be chairman if the new rules are adopted - a new chairman could be named after the gubernatorial election in November.

"I want to load the cannon," he said. "If I'm not the chairman, I want somebody else to be able to pull the trigger. But I think it's the right thing to do for Kentucky and the equine industry."

Several commission members - and others - approved of Shoop's recommendation.

Trainer Elliott Walden said tighter rules "would be a step in the right direction of unifying medication across state lines."

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