LAUREL -- Instead of seeking medication rules similar to those in nearby states, the Maryland Racing Commission is taking a position of leadership.
If commissioners in Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia want rules similar to Maryland's, they will have to make changes.
The long-range planning for new Maryland rules involves the diuretic sold under the trade name Lasix. Maryland commissioners envision two rules that are contrary to those of the other states:
* They want to continue use of the detention barn in which all horses treated with Lasix must be sent before a race.
* They want to establish a minimum and maximum dosage.
Maryland commissioners plan to follow their neighbors in adopting a rule permitting 2-year-olds to receive the medication. Under current rules in this state, horses cannot race on Lasix until they reach the age of 3.
Two-year-olds can get the medication in the other states.
"We want to do what is right for Maryland racing," said Allan C. Levey, a member of the board and leader of a medication subcommittee originally formed to obtain uniform rules.
"We want to have uniform rules," Levey said, "but we think Maryland is the leader, has the best racing, and we are trying to do what's best for us."
When the Maryland commissioners held their December meeting Wednesday, they voted to have their notes of hearings on Lasix written into acceptable rules by the assistant attorney general who represents the commission.
Levey said that the meetings with board members in other states have triggered major research projects involving Lasix.
"Our chemist [who tests urine and blood samples in Maryland] has started a study, and he's getting some information from other states," Levey said. "We probably won't institute any rules changes until we hear from him."
At least three months are required before the commission can put rules into effect. They must advertise and conduct hearings on the matters.
Levey, who practices dentistry in Prince George's County, said yesterday that he believes his experience, especially in oral surgery, has given him a good insight into the matter of Lasix.
"Horses deserve the best care that we can give them, as good care as humans if it can be done," he said. "As for Lasix use on 2-year-olds, I believe if an older horse can bleed through the nostrils and Lasix helps stop it, then the younger horses deserve the same treatment.
"The same goes for the proposed rule concerning dosage restrictions. Currently, we have no restrictions, but we want to have a minimum of two [cubic centimeters] and to establish a 10-cc dosage as a maximum for most horses. During our hearings, we heard testimony about one horse needing 17 cc's to stop him from bleeding.
"We're proposing that in certain cases, if a private veterinarian consults with our state vet, more than 10 cc's would be permitted."
Levey also explained his position about detention barns.
"They'll be bigger and more trouble with 2-year-olds coming in," he said, "but until we learn to verify through testing the quantity of Lasix given to a horse, I think we need to keep the barn to maintain integrity."