KY Drug-Testing Lab Still a Possibility

Kentucky continues to ponder creation of an equine drug-testing laboratory.

The Governor’s Task Force on the Future of Horse Racing hopes to have the framework for a plan to create an equine drug-testing laboratory in Kentucky in place by the end of this year.

A task force subcommittee met Sept. 23 in Lexington to discuss the feasibility of opening a lab in Kentucky as well as the necessary preliminary work. Officials plan to meet with the state Department of Economic Development to see if funding for a lab would be available.

Lab officials in other states told the task force subcommittee at least one consultant should be hired to facilitate the project. Such a lab would require about $3 million in start-up equipment and about $500,000 a year for research.

Subcommittee members generally agreed the proposed lab would be non-profit. They also believe it would be prudent to seek business—urine and blood samples for testing—from other states, and perhaps other disciplines.

Dr. Mary Scollay, equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, said Kentucky racing produces about 5,000 “paired samples” to be tested per year at Iowa State University, which holds the KHRC drug-testing contract. “We would need to double this number to be proficient,” Scollay said of the volume needed for the proposed lab.

KHRC chairman Robert Beck Jr. referred to discussion at this year’s Jockey Club Round Table concerning a need to consolidate, not expand the number of, labs in the United States.

“It’s not our intention to step on the toes of The Jockey Club and go in a different direction,” Beck said. “In fact, we are actively seeking a discussion with The Jockey Club. It could be we could work together if they are interested.”

The subcommittee plans to meet again in mid-October, and plans to invite representatives of the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville to make presentations on how they might be involved in launching a drug-testing lab.

Officials indicated there is little chance of having a lab operating by the time the World Equestrian Games are held in Lexington in 2010.

“If we find it’s reasonable to proceed on the lab, it will be an ongoing project that probably will consume about four or five years,” said Dr. Jerry Yon, chairman of the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council.

The task force, formed by Gov. Steve Beshear earlier this year, is expected to author a report on the state of racing in Kentucky, as well as suggestions on how to improve the industry, by December.