Kentucky racing officials said they intend on having regulations for use of anabolic steroids in racehorses in place as quickly as possible, but discussion and research are still needed.
The reconstituted Kentucky Horse Racing Commission met for the first time July 9, when its members were sworn in. Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, scrapped the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority July 3 and appointed many new members to the panel.
The Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council has been studying the steroids issue for months but has made no recommendations. It formed a committee that will meet again July 16. The drug council will make recommendations to the KHRC. On July 9, Beshear appointed authority member Dr. Jerry Yon to chair the drug research council, replacing former authority member Connie Whitfield.
“I’m hoping in a fairly short period of time, we’ll have a recommendation on regulation of anabolic steroids,” KHRC chairman Robert Beck Jr. said during the July 9 meeting.
After the session, officials said regulation of anabolic steroids is a priority, but they couldn’t set a timetable for adoption of rules given the circumstances. Regulations in Kentucky through the legislative process, and there still is research being done by the national Racing Medication and Testing Consortium in regard to testing for steroids in blood.
“I think you’ll see the state move as quickly as it can to have a good regulation in place in the near term,” said John Ward Jr., a KHRC and drug council member.
“I think it’s absolutely a priority—no one will dispute that,” said Dr. Mary Scollay, the KHRC’s first equine medical director. “Philosophically, we’re all on the same page. Clearly, the devil is always in the details.”
One of those details is testing. States such as Iowa have been testing for steroids in urine with success, officials have said. Others prefer blood testing.
“The only thing we continue to be concerned about is that the testing is up to what they intend to do,” said Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. “We’re just saying, ‘Make sure the testing is there.’
“We recognize it’s going to be here, and I don’t see our board fighting it. We just don’t want to see a horseman’s name dragged through the mud.”
Maline spoke in reference to tests that could come back positive for steroids that occur naturally in horses. He also said horsemen want to see the results of the RMTC research, which could be completed in September.
The RMTC, with urging from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Association of Racing Commissioners International, has suggested all racing jurisdictions have regulations—in effect a race-day ban—for steroids on the books by Jan. 1, 2009.
KHRC executive director Lisa Underwood confirmed the governor does have the option to sign emergency regulations for steroids if he deems it necessary. Thus, there is a chance regulations approved by the KHRC could be in place before the customary rule-making process is complete.
In other business, the KHRC, at its next meeting July 14, will consider new regulations regarding the licensing of owners and trainers. Underwood said it’s premature to discuss the details of the regulations.