Kentucky Commission Fires Back at State Agency

The chairman of the Kentucky Racing Commission said March 19 an investigation by the state Auditor of Public Accounts into a $50,000 personal services contract awarded for a review of drug research is an attack on the racing commission and Thoroughbred industry in the state.

The state agency, in a letter dated March 11, said it responded to "several anonymous complaints" regarding a contract awarded to Dr. Richard Sams of Ohio State University. Sams was hired by the racing commission in September 2002 to assist the panel and the state Equine Drug Council but has not yet been paid because of financial complications and a statute that requires all money for research be spent at Kentucky facilities.

During the March 19 racing commission meeting, chairman Frank Shoop said the commission wasn't notified of the "so called" investigation. The anonymous complaints suggested the contract wasn't put out for bid.

"I am personally outraged," Shoop said. "I feel this no less than an assault on the Thoroughbred industry in Kentucky."

Ned Bonnie, a member of the drug council and a supporter of the plan to have Sams review equine drug research at the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Center, said he couldn't believe a state agency would criticize the racing commission and drug council on the basis of anonymous complaints.

Shoop has called for a meeting between state auditors, the racing commission, and the drug council on March 24. He said the matter should be rectified in quick order, and also said he would call on the agency to release the identity of the source or sources of information.

State auditor Ed Hatchett disqualified himself from the probe due to a possible conflict of interest--his friendship with Dr. Thomas Tobin of the Gluck Center, according to published reports. It is Tobin's work that would be reviewed by Sams.

UK has agreed to the review, but university officials are still negotiating with drug council members as to the terms of the review.

In other business, the racing commission instructed executive director Bernie Hettel to devise regulations for use of shock-wave therapy at Kentucky racetracks. Most likely, only veterinarians would be permitted to administer the treatment to horses. There also would be a seven- or eight-day period before a race when treatment would not be permitted.

Shock-wave therapy is used to break up bone fragments but also assists in pain relief. The analgesic effects can last for four days, which has led to suspicion some horses are racing and can't feel pain.