Kentucky Moves Toward Stronger Drug-Testing Program

In keeping with the quest for what they call the best equine drug-testing program in the country, Kentucky racing commissioners on Wednesday officially opened the bidding for the state's drug-testing contract. The commission unanimously approved the request for proposal, a thick document that was four months in the making.

The Kentucky Racing Commission's contract with Truesdail Laboratories of California expired this month but was extended until the new testing program is in place. Commissioner chairman Frank Shoop said he's "99.9% sure" the request for proposal is the best document the state's Equine Drug Council could have prepared.

Kentucky's current drug-testing contract was studied by Churchill Downs president Alex Waldrop, Keeneland president Nick Nicholson, Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association executive director Marty Maline, and Equine Drug Council chairman Robert Stallings. Their input was sought for the request for proposal.

"There was a lot of due diligence on something that was very complicated," commission vice chairman Frank Jones Jr. said.

Dr. Thomas Tobin of the University of Kentucky's Gluck Equine Research Center said the state will have 30 rotating tests for various drugs, and that "instrumental tests" will be added to the mix. Dr. Richard Sams of Ohio State University said high standards and a quality-assurance mechanism are key points of the new drug-testing program.

"The commitment by the commission to employ an independent expert consultant to monitor performance of a laboratory during the contract period is a very important and progressive step in assuring the industry is getting value for the very substantial funds being extended to protect the integrity of racing and drug testing," said Ned Bonnie, a member of the Equine Drug Council.

The council's budget committee is scheduled to meet April 10 at Keeneland. The council gets about $750,000 a year from a percentage of pari-mutuel handle in the state.