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Steroid ban requires funding

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission needs more money and a larger staff if it hopes to adequately enforce new regulations on drug use and track safety, its executive director said Thursday.

The request comes after the commission voted earlier this week to ban anabolic steroids in racing. The new rule could take effect as soon as Gov. Steve Beshear signs an emergency regulation, perhaps as early as next week.

Executive Director Lisa Underwood told a subcommittee of the Governor's Task Force on the Future of Horse Racing that her agency needs 10 additional full-time workers and 21 part-time workers. The commission now has 27 full-time employees and three vacant positions.

The cost of the additional staff would be $1 million a year. The commission's budget is now $3 million a year. Underwood did not make any recommendations about the source of the money.

"We've wanted more staff for years," Underwood said, contending more employees are needed "to protect the integrity of the sport."

Underwood said the additional staff would include more investigators and another track veterinarian.

The racing commission has strengthened drug enforcement after outcry over this year's Kentucky Derby, won by Big Brown, apparently while on legally administered steroids.

The commission also has passed a ban on some toe grabs on front shoes in the wake of the death of second-place Derby finisher Eight Belles, who broke both front ankles on the track and was euthanized.

Task force chairman Tracy Farmer, a horse farm owner from Midway with close ties to Beshear, agreed with Underwood that more staffers are needed. "Everything we do is for nothing if we don't have the staff," he said.

Beshear has asked the task force, appointed by Beshear last month, to make recommendations to him by December on how to improve racing in the state. Several subcommittees are exploring a variety of issues.

The task force will meet for the first time Wednesday in Lexington.