Kentucky Drug Testing (Cont.)

There have long been whispers in the industry about the competition and personality conflicts between chemists, pharmacologists, and veterinarians in the area of equine drug research. Various regulatory agencies and horsemen's groups have different advisors whose research or opinions sometimes clash.

The National HBPA, a longtime Tobin patron, credits him for his work on regulatory thresholds and withdrawal times for therapeutic medication, among other things. Tobin has received tens of thousands of dollars from the HBPA for research, and his name appears on National HBPA letterhead as an advisor.

"He has heightened our awareness to an amazing degree about positives that really weren't positives...they were nothing but trace levels of therapeutic medication," said Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida HBHA and chairman of the National HBPA medication committee. "Without him doing research, lab directors would be running the country. We were in the dark ages, and there are a lot of lab directors that would like to keep us in the dark ages."

Equine drug research in Kentucky usually doesn't generate much interest from government officials. So it was a surprise when former state senator Dr. Ed Ford attended the Jan. 10 drug council meeting. A few days later, Gov. Paul Patton promoted him from deputy cabinet secretary to cabinet secretary in the wake of Crit Luallen's resignation.

During the drug council meeting, Ford, in response to questions from council members, indicated a willingness to facilitate statutory change in the legislature. "It's not that complicated to strike two or three words from the statute," he said.

The racing commission Jan. 15 unanimously approved a drug council request to pursue a change in the statute. Chairman Frank Shoop heralded his support of the initiative and said the governor's office would prepare a letter to help move it forward during the current legislative session.

Early last year, the Kentucky HBPA, through then general counsel Don Sturgill, fought attempts to spend drug council money on out-of-state research projects. Sturgill died in October 2002, and the HBPA has since been relatively silent on the issue.

During the Jan. 10 meeting, Dr. Arnold Pessin, organizer of the Lexington-based Race Track Practitioners who monitors racing commission and drug council business, publicly accused the council of "trying to get control of the money and cut the legs out from under the University of Kentucky." He later said the racing commission was "hoodwinked by a conspiracy" and questioned the drug council's integrity.

Shoop could not be reached for follow-up comments in light of the allegations. At the meeting, however, Alice Chandler, a member of the drug council, told Pessin his remarks were unfounded. "I don't worry about it, and I'm chairman of the Gluck board," she said.

The drug council, like the racing commission, is a public body, but since about the middle of 2002, notice of its meetings has not been provided to the media. Members of the press have found out about drug council meetings through second- and third-hand information.

In the past, meeting notices were mailed to media outlets in the same way the racing commission notices its meetings. The racing commission also announces a schedule of meetings as required under the Kentucky Open Public Meetings Act.

The next drug council meeting is scheduled for March, probably before the March 19 racing commission meeting.