On-Hiatus Kentucky Drug Council Being Reconstituted

The Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council, which hasn't met since last October, is being reconstituted under the administration of Gov. Ernie Fletcher and its new members will be announced soon, according to individuals close to the situation.

The terms of drug council members expired Aug. 1. Those individuals last met in October 2003. Since that time, the University of Kentucky's equine drug research program, funded by pari-mutuel handle under the auspices of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, was suspended indefinitely.

The KHRA recently hired Jim Gallagher, a former New York Racing Association and New York State Racing and Wagering Board official, to serve as executive director. In comments Oct. 5, Gallagher, who has an extensive regulatory background in medication and drug testing, said he was told the drug council would be reconstituted but he hasn't been party to related discussions.

It's possible new members of the council could be named at the October meeting of KHRA.

Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said association president Susan Bunning would be the organization's representative on the drug council. He also said the Kentucky HBPA has sent state racing officials letters in support of the equine drug research program and Dr. Thomas Tobin, who oversaw it.

Last fall, the drug council decided to move forward on two projects and in principal allocated $350,000 toward the research. The drug council's annual budget has been in the $800,000 range.

The old Kentucky Racing Commission, abolished earlier this year by executive order, had paid Tobin directly for his work. UK officials told the drug council last fall that funds would go from the commission to the UK Research Foundation, which in turn would direct funds to Tobin and other researchers.

Maline indicated Tobin still hadn't been paid for some research he began last year.

An April 5 memo to faculty in the UK Department of Veterinary Science said a decision to suspend the program was made after discussions with representatives of the KHRA failed to provide assurances the program would be supported in the future. The college and the authority agreed to suspend the program pending a "full review of its past performance and accomplishments," the memo said.

There has been no word on the review since that memo was issued.