In Kentucky, Even Horse Would Be Suspended

The Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council is considering substantial penalties for drug violations in horse racing, including combinations of fines and suspensions, use of detention barns, and provisions for horses to be barred from racing for specific periods of time depending on the offense.

The drug council met March 22 to discuss a proposal from its penalties committee. The council may take action at its next meeting in April and make recommendations to the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority.

The suggested penalties are for "milkshake" violations as well as positives for Class A, B, and C substances. The Association of Racing Commissioners International drug classification system--Class 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5--is being reworked into three classes by the national Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.

"This is an effort to make it much more difficult for people to beat the system," said Alan Leavitt, a Standardbred breeder and owner who sits on the drug council and chairs its penalties committee.

For Class C drugs, or therapeutic medications, penalties would range from loss of purse, and a $500 fine and 10-day suspension for the trainer for a first offense, to loss of purse, a $2,500 fine and 90-day suspension for the trainer, and 40-day suspension for the horse for a third offense.

For Class B drugs, or therapeutics that could affect performance, a first offense would bring loss of purse, a $1,000 fine and 60-day suspension for the trainer, and a 30-day suspension for the horse. For a third offense, there would be loss of purse, a $10,000 fine and 240-day suspension for the trainer, and a 60-day suspension for the horse.

For Class A drugs, which are known to impact performance, a first offense would bring loss of purse, a $15,000 fine and 1,095-day suspension for the trainer, and a 90-day suspension for the horse. A third offense would trigger loss of purse, a $50,000 fine and lifetime suspension for the trainer, and a 360-day suspension for the horse.

All milkshake violations would carry horse suspensions as well. The provision puts some onus on owners to keep better tabs on their racing operations.

"There are a lot of unsuspecting owners that don't know what goes on in the barn, but they really should," Leavitt said.

Dan Fick, executive director of The Jockey Club and chairman of the national consortium, said the consortium would consider the eventual recommendations from Kentucky. Fick said he hopes the consortium has its model recommendations for penalties adopted by June.

Kentucky also is looking at penalties for people who have in their possession "blood-gas" machines used to test for milkshakes, or shock-wave machines. Merely having a blood-gas testing device in one's possession would bring a $5,000 fine and 90-day suspension on a first offense; for a shock-wave device, the first offense would bring a $1,000 fine and 30-day suspension.

"There is no therapeutic use whatsoever for a trainer to have a black box," Leavitt said. "This would make it not just a sin but a crime to have it."

For TCO2 violations, if a trainer appeals, all of his or her horses would have to race out of a detention barn. The trainer would have to pick up the cost.

The drug council also discussed the possibility of having individuals such as trainers and vets agree during the licensing process not to violate drug rules, and if they do, be subject to perjury charges. Council chairwoman Connie Whitfield said the process is being used more and more in federal statutes.

Ned Bonnie, an equine attorney who attended the council meeting, said afterward he believes that could be problematic given the fact perjury pertains to making statements under oath during a court-related process.

As for publicizing violations, the name of an alleged offender would be published in racing programs and on the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority Web site after an appeal was filed, officials said.