The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will take up an out-of-competition testing rule Tuesday that could allow tests for blood-doping and nerve-blocking venoms as early as next week.
The Equine Drug Research Council on Thursday approved a final recommendation to send to the full commission that would let regulators suspend violators for five to 10 years for a first offense and fine them up to $50,000.
The advisory panel voted 6-1; state Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, objected to softening the penalty from a flat 10-year suspension.
"I just think if Kentucky adopts anything less than a 10-year period then it makes us look weak," Thayer argued.
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Dr. Jerry Yon, chairman of the panel, said the final recommendation, hammered out during the past year with intense discussions in the past month, is a good one.
He said flexibility in the penalty is more likely to prevent a successful legal challenge.
"I think we are going to be aggressive about going after horses that are outside the state," Yon said after the vote. "We want to have a good regulation that will stand up in court. That was a major consideration."
The proposed rule will allow the racing commission to test virtually any Thoroughbred, Standardbred, quarter horse or Arabian racehorse anywhere for several drugs that are virtually undetectable in traditional post-race testing.
Future owner and trainer licenses will be amended to grant permission for testing; parties can refuse to submit to blood testing, but the refusal will be subject to the same penalty as a positive test result.
The racing commission has said it wants to have a rule in place before the Breeders' Cup Thoroughbred championships in November at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
If the commission approves the rule next week as an emergency regulation, it could take effect as soon as Gov. Steve Beshear signs the executive order. The commission meets at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at Churchill Downs.
Yon said he expects there to be some testing in the weeks leading up to the Breeders' Cup.
"I'll be surprised and disappointed if there isn't," he said.