Legislation Requires Pre-Race Testing of All Horses

A Kentucky legislator is calling for even stricter equine drug-testing measures that call for pre-race testing of all horses within one hour of post time.

Rep. Tom Burch of the Louisville area pre-filed legislation in advance of the 2006 General Assembly session that begins Jan. 3. The drug-testing provisions are added to regulations that empower the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority.

Under the provisions proposed by Burch, procedures established for race-day medication "shall prohibit any horse from participating in a race at a licensed track if the horse tests positive for any drug that is prohibited under the authority's drug policies." Tests for each of the prohibited substances must be administered within one hour prior to post time.

"The tests...shall be given to all participating horses and shall be of sufficient breadth as to eliminate the administration of any other tests prior to the start of the race," the legislation states. Furthermore, "if the presence of the prohibited drugs cannot be determined until after the race has been run, the authority, upon receiving the results of the test, shall deem the horse to be disqualified, and any prizes won shall revert back to the track for distribution to the next eligible horse."

The bill offers no explanation as to how the pre-race testing would be performed, or which entity would pay for it. The only pre-race testing that has been done in Kentucky recently was for "milkshakes," a concoction of bicarbonate of soda mixed with a liquid that is believed to reduce fatigue and therefore enhance performance.

Though officials in Kentucky and other states have called for uniform medication rules and enhanced drug testing, cost--and who will bear the cost--has been a major impediment. In addition, it usually takes at least several days to get the results of a battery of tests for prohibited substances back from laboratories that hold the drug-testing contracts for each racing state.

In comments to the Louisville Courier-Journal, however, Burch indicated pre-race testing is a natural progression given repeated calls by the KHRA, legislators, and the administration of Gov. Ernie Fletcher for a level playing field and nothing but the utmost integrity in horse racing.

"If this is what they actually believe, this is what we should do," Burch told the newspaper.

During a meeting of the state Interim Joint Subcommittee on Licensing and Occupations in July, Burch was one of several legislators who questioned allegations Kentucky horse racing was riddled with medication abuses and attempts to influence the outcome of races. A member of the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council in particular had said there was a perception around the country Kentucky racing was rife with cheaters.

"I know a lot of people who go to the racetrack, and I haven't heard one of them raise this question about the drugs a horse takes and what it does to the quality of racing in Kentucky," Burch said during the subcommittee hearing. "Are we putting up something that's impossible to achieve in racing? And what about horses coming into the state? Do we just disqualify all of them?"

Burch also took offense with the suggestion Kentucky was lagging behind and needs to emulate other states in the area of medication and drug testing. Burch is among the state legislators who regularly involve themselves in racing-related issues; he also has pre-filed bills dealing with expanded gaming at racetracks.