The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium has funded a research project to study threshold levels and withdrawal times of four approved anabolic steroids. But the timing of the study, which should be completed by August, could make it difficult for the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority to implement steroid regulations in the state by Jan. 1, 2009.
Lisa Underwood, KHRA executive director, said the form of the regulation could be approved fairly quickly by the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council and the KHRA, but timing could get tricky once it's filed with the Legislative Research Commission.
After it's filed with the LRC, the legislation will be assigned to an Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee, and would also be open to public hearings and comments, which could take several months.
"I really do want to move forward with this, and absolutely want to be regulating (steroids), but I want to do it correctly," said Underwood. "If there is backlash from certain interest groups, that's what slows down the process. That's what happened to us on the drug rule. We would like to work with the different groups ahead of time, so hopefully it will go smoothly."
Dan Fick, RMTC chief executive officer, and also executive director of The Jockey Club, told the KHRA to stick with the Jan. 1 goal of implementing the regulations. "We're trying to encourage everyone to start the process and discussion to move toward uniformity at the end of the year," Fick said, adding that he hoped there would someday be an international uniformity in drug rules.
The Association of Racing Commissioners International approved Model Rules on the use of four anabolic steroids and has banned the use of other anabolics in horses.
The research, conducted at the University of Florida Pharmacokinetics Laboratory, will use plasma and urine samples from 20 Thoroughbreds and six Standardbreds that have been administered the four permitted steroids of stanozolol (Winstrol), boldenone (Equipoise), Nandrolone, and testosterone.
Nandrolone and boldenone occur naturally in intact males and testosterone occurs in all horses.
The samples will be analyzed at four additional laboratories--Iowa State, Pennsylvania, UC-Davis, and Florida. The goal of the project is to provide regulators, horsemen, and veterinarians definitive threshold levels and withdrawal times for anabolic steroids in plasma and urine.
In addition to the laboratory research, Fick said UC-Davis would sponsor an informative steroids-focused workshop in April.
Currently, four states--Arkansas, Indiana, Virginia, and Washington-- have utilized the Model Rules on steroids. Two other states, Arizona and Iowa, regulate anabolic steroids under existing rules and 15 additional states have begun the rule adoption process.
Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said while he is in support of the regulation of steroids, additional research is needed in order to find a uniform threshold for detecting testosterone levels in horses.
"The production of testosterone in colts is not constant throughout the year," Maline explained. "What we don't have is a good handle even on what is an average concentration from horse to horse. We would ask the Authority to allow the process to continue regarding the research and make sure that before rules are set in place, horsemen have a fair knowledge of what the threshold is."