Anne M. Eberhardt

KY Committee Says New Drug Rules 'Deficient'

One lawmaker wants the governor to implement the regulations anyway Sept. 6.

A Kentucky legislative subcommittee, in a surprise vote, found regulations governing equine medication "deficient" Aug. 27, just one week before they are scheduled to take effect.

The regulations call for regulatory administration of furosemide on race day, a ban on adjunct bleeder medications, and a reduction in the amount phenylbutazone that can be administered to a horse 24 hours before a race. The regulations are in line with national model rules approved by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and the Association of Racing Commissioners International.

The regulations are supposed to take effect Sept. 4, in time for the Turfway Park meet that begins Sept. 6.

The bipartisan Interim Joint Committee on Licensing and Occupations held its regular meeting Aug. 27, and on the agenda was a report from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on its activities. The new drug rules weren't on the agenda.

According to sources, the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association over the weekend lobbied lawmakers to call the regulations for a vote. All but one of the 20 legislators present for the meeting voted to find the regulations deficient.

"I spoke out against finding it deficient," Republican Sen. Damon Thayer said. "I was the only 'no' vote. The HBPA ambushed the racing commission, and I felt blindsided, too. This wasn't on the agenda.

"This process (on the regulations) has been going on for a year and a half, and there has been full transparency. It's a national model rule that has been adopted by other states, so I question the motivation of the HBPA."

Thayer, who is a member of the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council, which recommended passage of the regulations, suggested the horsemen's group is "trying to muddy the waters in advance of action" on proposed rules to ban furosemide on race day in graded and listed stakes in Kentucky effective Jan. 1, 2014.

Kentucky HBPA president Rick Hiles told the Louisville Courier-Journal the action by the interim joint committee could spell trouble for the proposed Salix ban.

"I don't think they're going to get it to go anywhere," Hiles told the Courier-Journal. "If we got this stopped today, the (Salix) ban is probably dead."

After the KHRC passed the Salix regulations earlier this year, Hiles and Kentucky HBPA executive director Marty Maline told The Blood-Horse horsemen would go to the legislature to make their case.

The KEDRC in August 2011 voted 5-2 to pass the adjunct bleeder drug ban and the reduction in the amount of phenylbutazone that can be administered, and 6-1 to pass the regulatory administration of furosemide. The KHRC then approved the regulations.

Furosemide, also called Salix or Lasix, is an anti-bleeding drug administered no less than four hours before a race in Kentucky. Horsemen's groups have been vocal in their opposition to any rules to ban Salix, but few have resisted efforts to ban adjunct bleeder medications such as Amicar, Tranex, Estrone, and Kentucky Red within 24 hours of a race.

There also has been little opposition nationally to regulatory administration of Salix.

Phenylbutazone, also called Bute, is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. The regulations lower the permitted dose from five micrograms per milliliter of plasma of serum to two micrograms.

Thayer said he urged the KHRC to move forward, and encouraged Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear to override the vote by the interim joint committee. He said Beshear "has a chance unilaterally to implement the regulation" Sept. 6.