Kentucky Offers Itself as Drug-Testing Model

The Kentucky Racing Commission believes it is at the forefront of equine drug testing, and it plans to take the lead in implementing recommendations of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Racing Integrity and Drug Testing Task Force report released Aug. 19 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Commission chairman Frank Shoop announced Wednesday during an Equine Drug Council meeting that he would appoint a committee to help implement the recommendations and work with the task force. "Helping Kentucky become the model in drug testing is one of my biggest goals," he said.

The council reviewed the task force's five recommendations, and said Kentucky's program is in line with them or ahead of the curve. The commission in September will rebid its equine drug-testing contract, which will call for more ELISA tests. That recommendation was made by the task force, though Kentucky already planned to add more ELISA tests, officials said.

"Everybody wants to use the word 'liberal' instead of the word 'progressive' to describe Kentucky," said Bernie Hettel, executive director of the racing commission. "Maybe Kentucky ought to be the model for the United States. We are the template for change."

Hettel noted that in the last five years, Kentucky has had 19 positive tests, 18 of them for Class 3 drugs.

Kentucky's mediation rules have been called permissive, even by some from within the state. But Ned Bonnie, a member of the drug council, said medication rules aren't being targeted by the national task force.

"That task force wasn't designed to change, or isn't interested in changing, the rules in a given state," Bonnie said, "though it may want to assist states in enforcing their rules."

In previous interviews, officials in other states have said they don't believe Kentucky's model will be used on a national level. They also cited California as problematic when it comes to medication issues.

In other business, the drug council appointed a three-member committee-Drs. Atwood Asbury, Gary Lavin, and Richard Sams-to consider all the research projects submitted to the council to determine which ones should be funded. The new committee will make recommendations to the council's budget committee, which will make recommendations to the full council, which will then make recommendations to the racing commission.

The council also may seek a legislative change to increase the amount of funding it gets from pari-mutuel handle in the state. Currently, it's one-tenth of 1% of all handle.