The Kentucky Racing Commission, apparently at the urging of the state Equine Drug Council, has hired Dr. Richard Sams of Ohio State University to serve as a consultant on medication and drug-testing issues.
In a related matter, the proposed change in medication policy for Thoroughbred racing in Kentucky will not affect the rules for Standardbred racing, officials said.
Commission chairman Frank Shoop confirmed that Sams, who attended the Sept. 16 meeting of the drug council, has been hired. Earlier this year, the drug council attempted to hire Sams, but the move was blocked when the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association's former general counsel cited state law that says council funds cannot be spent out of state.
Earlier this summer, Frank Jones Jr., vice chairman of the racing commission, said the state's equine drug-testing contract calls for an adviser, who could be hired effective July 1. A commission attorney earlier issued an opinion that state statute wouldn't allow the drug council to hire Sams.
When the issue was last addressed in June, the racing commission took no action because the end of the fiscal year was approaching. The Kentucky legislature has failed to pass a budget because of a shortfall and political bickering.
"We had to wait until we got into the new budget period," Shoop said. "Rick Sams will be under contract as a monitor consultant. We don't have all of his duties spelled out, but he will be working on drug testing."
The commission last year issued a new equine drug-testing contract that went to Iowa State University. The previous laboratory of record was Truesdail in California.
"One of his biggest jobs will be monitoring drug testing in Kentucky," Shoop said of Sams. "He will also be assigned other duties from the racing commission. The commission will pay him, but he will assist (the commission and the drug council)."
The commission is scheduled to announce the hiring at its Sept. 24 meeting. At that time, it also will address the proposal that calls for a reduction in permitted race-day medications from 16 to five for Thoroughbred racing only. A change would require racing commission approval but no change in state statute.
Kentucky has separate rules for Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing. Only furosemide (Salix) four hours before a race, and phenylbutazone 24 hours before a race, are permitted for harness racing.
"I'm not interested in expanding our race-day medications," said Dr. Jim Sautter, a member of the drug council and a Standardbred breeder and owner.
Shoop said the Thoroughbred proposal would in no way affect the Standardbred policy.