Kentucky Puts Drug-Testing Contract on Hold

The Kentucky Racing Commission has put its plan for a new equine drug testing contract on hold because of technical problems with the bidding process, officials said.

Edward (Ned) Bonnie, a member of the council, said laboratories that bid on Kentucky's drug-testing contract have been told the RFP (request for proposal) was withdrawn and will be rebid. In the meantime, Truesdail of Tustin, Calif., will continue to handle Kentucky's equine drug testing.

In April, the commission touted its RFP as the most comprehensive document of its kind. It also put a premium on quality control as it pertains to equine drug testing.

"We had some concerns, and after getting legal advice, we determined it was in the best interests of the commonwealth to rebid (the drug-testing contract) this fall," racing commission chairman Frank Shoop said of the technicalities involved in the bidding for the RFP. "We're also waiting until the 'super testing' report comes out from the NTRA to see if there is anything we need to put into our RFP."

During a Kentucky Racing Commission meeting Tuesday, vice chairman Frank Jones Jr. reiterated the comments of Shoop, who was unable to attend the meeting. Jones cited a "technical issue," and then said he couldn't "emphasize enough that the RFP must remain in the exclusive care of the four-member selection committee. We want to make sure there is no reason for further delay."

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association in 1998 formed the NTRA Task Force on Racing Integrity and Drug-Testing Standards, which is poised to issue a key report on medication and drug testing. The details will be released Aug. 19 at The Jockey Club Round Table in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Test results from more than 1,000 blind samples collected in the past year or so as part of the "super testing" program are at the heart of the research.

"We've compiled an awful lot of data," said Jim Gallagher, executive director of the task force who once worked for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.

When asked to comment on its contents, Gallagher said: "It's going to be a very interesting report. As we say here at the NTRA, 'Sit back and watch the movie.' "

Recent cases involving high-profile trainers Bob Baffert in California and Nick Zito in New York have put medication and drug testing on the big screen -- the stories made the national newspapers. The Baffert case, which stems from a positive morphine test taken after a May 3, 2000 race, has again raised the issue of environmental contamination. A similar case involving trainer Bobby Frankel is scheduled to be heard this summer in California.

Gallagher indicated the long-awaited report from the task force will be timely and relevant to many medication cases, including the most recent ones.

"The report will speak to the issues, such as the differences (in medication rules and testing) between jurisdictions, as well differences in decision levels," Gallagher said. "Also, there does need to be a distinction made between possible environmental contamination and the deliberate administration of a drug."