KHRA Awaits Official Word on Drug-Policy Request

The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority is prepared to provide legislators with information regarding proposed changes in the state's race-day medication policy, but as of June 14 it hadn't received official word of the request.

The Interim Joint Committee on Licensing and Occupations discussed the state's medication policy during a June 10 meeting. The committee would like information from the KHRA and Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council regarding race-day medication changes approved by each panel earlier this year.

A release to that effect was issued June 12 by the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, whose board of directors opposed the changes in the race-day medication policy. The horsemen's group said House Speaker Larry Clark, a member of the joint committee, wants legislative staff to get answers from the KHRA and drug council regarding implementation of the changes; the process used by the national Racing Medication and Testing Consortium in developing the standards approved in Kentucky; whether the model rules must be adopted in total; and whether all interested parties have had a chance to be heard on the issue.

"The fundamental question is this: Is there any empirical, objective evidence to suggest that Kentucky's current equine medication policies diminish the integrity of the Kentucky racing product and the confidence it enjoys in the eyes of the betting public?" Clark asked.

KHRA executive director Jim Gallagher said June 14 the panel hadn't received anything in writing from the state's Legislative Research Commission. Gallagher said the KHRA could send a written reply at some point or have representatives appear before the interim joint committee, which currently meets the second Friday of each month.

"We won't put policies in place that don't have full force in effect," Gallagher said. "We're now trying to incorporate the penalties. Then we'll have all the pieces of the puzzle to put together the rule."

The KHRA delayed action on a proposed penalty schedule at its May meeting but is expected to address the matter again June 27.

The drug policy approved by the KHRA allows for only Salix and one adjunct bleeder medication on race day. The current policy in Kentucky allows for use of multiple non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on race day.

Clark also asks for a status report on the drug council's budget and an explanation of ongoing research projects. The council gets about $800,000 per year from a small percentage of handle, but no projects have been awarded since late 2003.

Last spring, the equine drug research program at the University of Kentucky was suspended, and there has been no word as to whether it would be reinstated. The university's Gluck Equine Research Center carried out the projects recommended by the drug council.

Rep. Denver Butler, who co-chairs the interim joint committee, indicated in a statement the matter should be further investigated. "I have heard comments and read media reports over the past months that have raised some questions in my mind, and I think in the minds of several committee members."

Changes to the race-day medication policy and related penalties for drug violations must go through the legislative process after they're approved by the KHRA.