Steroids a priority for new racing commission

Racing regulators could vote to ban steroids as early as August, according to Kentucky Horse Racing Commission chairman Bob Beck Jr.

Most new and reappointed members of the panel were sworn in Wednesday at an emergency meeting so the commission could begin considering business.

The panel will meet Monday to consider changes in individual licensing, but new medication rules are in limbo with the loss of its advisory panel's chairwoman. The Equine Drug Research Council, which must be headed by a commission member, had been led by Republican Connie Whitfield, who was not reappointed last week. She was replaced on the commission by Thoroughbred breeder and former state Democratic party fund-raising chairman Tracy Farmer.

“I think we've got a good group and we're going to get started fairly quickly,” Beck said.

He said Gov. Steve Beshear has requested Beck's three commission nominees to head up the drug council by the end of the week.

“I definitely think you'll see a vote on anabolic steroids before the end of the summer,” said Lisa Underwood, commission executive director.

“Out-of-competition” testing for blood-doping agents and other drugs that don't show up in race-day screening might be close behind.

Commission member Alan Leavitt said he has a rule and penalty ready to propose.

A separate health and safety committee, chaired by Thoroughbred breeder Betsy Lavin, is looking at whips, shoeing, synthetic track surfaces and maintenance.

Veterinarian Dr. Mary Scollay, attending her first meeting as commission medical director, said steroid regulation is “absolutely a priority and we need to move forward.”

After the meeting, Farmer said he has seen various versions of steroid model rules but favors a ban. “Steroids in sales, steroids in racing — there's no place for them,” Farmer said. “And not next year. This thing has been studied to death.”

He said steroids and the ethical treatment of horses are big issues for Beshear. That's why Farmer agreed to serve despite saying previously that he would not seek a position in the administration.

“He wants people who will speak for him and make the right decision,” Farmer said. “This is a very competitive industry, and there are people who will use any advantage.”