Ky. bans steroids, cuts penalties

August 26, 2008|By From Staff and Sun News Services

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Kentucky horse racing regulators approved yesterday a sweeping steroid ban for the state's thoroughbred and standardbred races but drastically reduced the proposed penalties for trainers whose horses test positive.

With a unanimous vote of confidence from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, the steroid ban could take effect as early as this fall's meet at Turfway Park and would be well under way for next year's Kentucky Derby. Gov. Steve Beshear has said he would push it through swiftly using an emergency regulation.

Although the ban is tough, it is not nearly as tough as the one proposed by Kentucky's Equine Drug Research Council this month. The group had called for suspensions of up to three years for trainers and veterinarians whose horses fail a steroid test, but the authority revised the penalties, capping them at a 60-day suspension for first-time offenders.

Jerry Yon, who chairs the drug council, said changes were made because of trainers' concerns that their careers could be ruined through one positive test, even if they did not personally administer the illegal drug or know about it. The racing commission's version more closely resembles a national model that racing states are being encouraged to follow, Yon said.

Under the Kentucky ban, horses would not be allowed to race with any steroid in their system. Three specific steroids could be given for therapeutic purposes if prescribed by a veterinarian, but horses who receive them would be barred from racing without proof that they have been off the drugs for 60 days.

Among the steroids that would be banned in Kentucky is stanozolol, which Big Brown had in his system before winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

After Beshear signs the emergency order enacting the steroid ban, a 90-day grace period would begin. If a horse tests positive in the final 30 days of that period but there is no proof that the steroid was administered after the ban was instituted, it would be considered a warning but would increase penalties for future violations. If there is proof that the drug was administered during the grace period, it would be considered a violation of the drug rule.

"This is a very strict rule," said Robert Beck, Kentucky's racing commission chairman. "We're proud of it, and we're going to live by it."

Maryland is on target to have steroid regulations in place by Jan. 1, according to racing commission executive director J. Michael Hopkins. Hopkins said he has been in talks with the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and could have recommendations ready for approval by the commission's next meeting, on Sept. 16.

Hopkins said Maryland regulations probably would follow guidelines set by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, a Kentucky-based charitable organization dedicated to promoting policies, research and education to protect the interests of racehorses, participants and the betting public.

If such rules are adopted by Maryland, horses would be allowed to receive some prescribed steroids for medical purposes, Hopkins said.

After the Maryland Racing Commission approves steroid regulations, the rules are subject to review by a bicameral legislative committee.

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