Kentucky Drug Council Supports Regulation of Steroids

Kentucky is hashing out the details of proposed rules that would effectively ban the use of anabolic steroids for performance-enhancing purposes in racehorses.

The Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council supports the regulation of anabolic steroids in horses at racetracks and auctions in the state but has requested further explanation of withdrawal times and other testing-related issues in the model rule offered by the Association of Racing Commissioners International and Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.

In an Aug. 23 meeting, the drug council stopped short of a recommendation for the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority but said it would tell the agency it favors steroid regulation. Officials said they want to make sure all parties, including horsemen, understand the rules and procedures before going forward.

There is a nationwide push for the regulation of four commonly used steroids approved for use by the Federal Drug Administration: boldenone (Equipoise), stanozolol (Winstrol), nandrolone (Durabolin), and testosterone. All other steroids would be banned.

“I think the consensus would be everybody wants constraint on anabolic steroids in racehorses and at sales,” said trainer John Ward Jr., a member of the drug council. “I guess the next question is what the speed limit would be.”

Steroid withdrawal times--the period it takes for a drug to clear a horse’s system--reportedly range from 30-60 days, which would preclude their use on race day. FDA-approved steroids are widely believed to have therapeutic value.

“Anabolic steroids are extremely abused in racehorses,” said Dr. Foster Northrop, a racetrack veterinarian who took part in the dicussion on steroids. “They do have a purpose in our industry, but they’re abused. The majority of racetrack vets will agree with you.”

Northrop said steroid use isn’t as bad in Kentucky as in other states. He claimed most abuse occurs in New York, where horses may be treated with steroids every 10 to 21 days. He said steroid use is high in Florida, as well.

“Racetrack practitioners feel it’s incredibly important that if we adopt rules for racehorses, sale companies should have to abide by the same rules,” Northrop said. “We are adamant about that.”

David Switzer, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, said Kentucky sale companies are working on threshold levels for anabolic steroids and could have regulations in place by early 2008.

Vets said steroids can serve two purposes. They can be “mental performance-enhancers,” the effects of which last about five days, and physical enhancers, the effects of which are gone in about two weeks. Northup suggested a withdrawal time of even two weeks would eliminate abuse.

The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association has asked all racing jurisdictions with graded stakes to begin testing for anabolic steroids effective Jan. 1, 2008. Even if Kentucky doesn't have regulations in place, racetracks could adopt house rules to meet those testing requirements, KHRA executive director Lisa Underwood said.

The drug council also discussed but took no action on a proposal to restrict administration of the bleeder medication Salix to state veterinarians, as is required at harness tracks but not Thoroughbred tracks. The plan would require hiring of additional personnel.