Kentucky Approves Stiffer Drug Penalties

By Amy Whitfield and Tom LaMarra

Kentucky is one step closer to implementing a hard-hitting comprehensive schedule of penalties for medication violations, including horse suspensions, license revocations, and fines designed to make racehorse owners and veterinarians more accountable.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority unanimously voted Monday to approve penalties proposed by the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council in May. However, the language of the document remains to be finalized.

"In principle the Authority members have agreed to a model rule along the lines of what the Racing Medication Testing Consortium has done," KHRA executive director Jim Gallagher said. "We've agreed in principle with what the penalties should be and now it's a matter of melding those two issues together and sharing it with Authority members."

KHRA chairman Bill Street asked that the final form of the document be shared with Authority members so they will have at least 24 hours to review it before it is moved forward in the regulatory process.

Gallagher said it is still unknown whether the penalty guidelines will be submitted in emergency regulation or normal regulation fashion, and how soon the penalties would take effect depends upon the manner of submission

"That hasn't even been discussed," Gallagher said. It is likely the final step would require his signature as well as the signatures of Street and Gov. Ernie Fletcher, Gallagher said.

KHRA vice-chair Connie Whitfield said penalties for drug violations will be the same for all horse breeds that race in Kentucky.

"A lot of thought has been put into these penalties," said Whitfield, who also serves as chair of the Drug Council. "In substance, the penalties, like the medication rules we approved earlier, are modeled on the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium's proposed penalties, which we hope will become uniform across the nation, as we do the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium's drug rules, because we are aiming for uniformity."

Most jurisdictions, including Kentucky, have fallen in line with the consortium's race-day drug policy, which permits only Salix and one adjunct bleeder medication.

The five drug classifications under Association of Racing Commissioners International guidelines have been reworked into three categories in Kentucky--Class A, the most serious performance-altering substances; Class B, which are less potent but still could affect performance; and Class C, mainly therapeutic substances used in racehorses.

Class B penalties would apply to violations for the presence of more than one non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug on race day. Though therapeutic in nature, the drugs are believed to have strong effects when mixed, or "stacked," with related substances.

The horse suspensions and license revocations are reserved for most Class B and all Class A violations.

The most minor penalty would be a first offense for a Class C medication: possible loss of purse, a $250-$500 fine for the trainer, and up to a 10-day suspension for the trainer. The most serious penalty, a third offense for a Class A drug, calls for loss of purse, a $20,000-$50,000 fine for the trainer, revocation of the trainer's license, and a 45- to 240-day suspension for the horse, depending on how many previous violations the owner has had.

There are separate penalty schedules for "milkshake," or TCO2 violations, as well as serious fines and suspensions for the possession of blood-gas (black box) machines used for milkshake testing and for possession of shock-wave devices.

The KHRA will meet again July 11.