Out-of-competition drug testing proposed for Ky. racing

Kentucky racing officials are working on new regulations to allow out-of-competition testing in advance of the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs in November.

The rules could permit testing of virtually any racehorse, in state or out, at any time for blood-doping agents, nerve-blocking venoms and growth hormones. Possession of any of the drugs on a racetrack or a regulated training center also would be illegal.

A draft version of the regulation would impose a 10-year ban and a $50,000 fine on offenders. But the penalties and other aspects of the rules are still in flux.

The rule is modeled on those in New York and Indiana but goes beyond other jurisdictions in scope.

The draft was discussed at a joint meeting Tuesday of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's Rules Committee and the Equine Drug Research Council.

Blood-doping agents such as erythropoietin and darbepoetin and their derivatives have surfaced in sports such as cycling, but they are extremely difficult to detect.

Out-of-competition testing, performed well before the horse runs in a race, is necessary, regulators say, because the drugs can be detected only within a day or two of administration although the effects can last for weeks, if not months.

But some members of the advisory panel expressed concern that the proposed penalties are too harsh and said the rule, as drafted, is unenforceable.

Commissioner Tom Conway, a lawyer and horse owner, compared it to the death penalty.

"This 10-year (ban), $50,000 fine — that amounts to capital punishment," Conway said.

An owner or trainer could refuse to have a horse tested, but that horse then would be banned from racing for 180 days.

The commission may take up the new rule at its September meeting. Lisa Underwood, commission executive director, said the regulation likely will be put into place as an emergency regulation but that at least two public hearings for comment are planned.