The Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council has adopted a recommended ban on anabolic steroids that is classified as the “toughest in the country” by the panel’s chairman.
“We have done our homework,” drug council chairman Dr. Jerry Yon said Aug. 14 of the work that led to the final recommendation. “This is the toughest in the country.”
The regulations, which apply to both Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing in the state, also include stiffer penalties for violations.
Under the proposed regulation, a horse would be ineligible to race in Kentucky until at least 60 days after administration of a therapeutic anabolic steroid, and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has received a clean test report on the horse from a laboratory approved by the Kentucky equine medical director.
If an exogenous (synthetically produced) steroid is detected, the violation will be considered a Class A violation, for which punishment is license suspension up to three years. A positive for a naturally occurring steroid would be a Class B violation, for which the penalty is license suspension up to 60 days.
The recommendation, which will now be considered by the KHRC Aug. 25, allows only three endogenous (naturally occurring) anabolic steroids to be given no closer than 60 days before a race. The three allowable steroids are boldenone, nandrolone, and testosterone.
Yon said the one steroid not permitted in Kentucky but allowed by some other states is stanozolol, which had previously been administered through the drug Winstrol. Yon said Winstrol is no longer manufactured and that stanozolol is now available as a result of "compounding," resulting in inconsistent strength.
The recommendation outlines procedures that must be followed, including the commission receiving a clean test report on the horse from a laboratory approved by the Kentucky equine medical director, before the horse is allowed to race.
A positive test for a naturally occurring steroid will be a Class B violation, which could result in a 60-day license suspension. Under the existing drug rule, those steroids are treated as a Class C medications, carrying a penalty of a suspension up to 10 days.
Trainer John Ward, a member of the drug council and racing commission, questioned whether the regulatory agency could properly police some aspects of the rules pertaining to endogenous steroids. He was particularly concerned about horses that have been racing in other jurisdictions that are sent to Kentucky trainers, who will not have the benefit of knowing the horse's medication regimen. He said the rule bordered on "out of competition" testing.
"We haven't got the authority or right to tell someone who owns a horse what they can give that animal until that horse is placed in the entry box," Ward said. "It's just not possible. Trainers just can't live under the trauma all the time of an outside horse coming in and not knowing whether that animal has been treated or not."
Alan Leavitt, a member of the equine drug council and the racing commission, said there should be a higher burden on trainers to vouch for their horses, even if they are receiving the horse from out of state. The withdraw time becomes irrelevant if a horse is positive," Leavitt said. "It's an excuse, not a reason. If you say, 'I didn't give him this stuff within 30 days,' if he's positive, tough turtles. He's still positive."
Ward approved the drug council recommendation, but said it is possible he will vote against the final rule when it is considered by the full commission.
The model rule, devised by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and the Association of Racing Commissioners International, allows for four anabolic steroids given no closer than 30 days before a race.
Following the drug council's action, Gov. Steve Beshear issued a statement supporting the tougher rule. He also recommended that the commission request the regulation be implemented under an emergency rule, which would permit Beshear to sign it without it going through a lengthy review process.
"Kentucky is the horse capital of the world," the statement said. "We must be a leader in ensuring the health and integrity of horses and of this vitally important industry. A ban on anabolic steroids is an important part of that process."
KHRC executive director Lisa Underwood explained there would be a 90-day grace period once the regulations become official. During that time, no penalties will be imposed. After the first 30 days of the grace period, notices of positives would be sent to owners and trainers.
Also, any owner or trainer who claims a horse can request that it be tested for steroids, with the claim voided if the test is positive.
On Aug. 1, Breeders' Cup announced that any trainer whose horse tests positive for anabolic steroids at the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Park Oct. 24-25 will face a one-year suspension from the event.