Horse Racing Drug Ban Proposal Overturned
A proposal to ban an anti-bleeding drug on race days in Kentucky lost by a nose on Monday in a debate dividing a hobbled thoroughbred industry struggling to preserve the Bluegrass state's reputation as the nation's horse capital.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission ended the tense discussion on the use of furosemide with a seven-to-seven roll call vote on the proposed regulation that would have prohibited the drug from the Kentucky Derby in 2014, and in the whole state starting in 2015. The race-day ban would have first applied to two-year-olds racing in 2013.
The proposal would have made Kentucky the first state to ban race-day use of furosemide, marketed under the brand names Lasix or Salix. The drug is used to treat pulmonary hemorrhaging in racehorses. Furosemide is the only medication allowed to be given to horses on race day in the United States. Its use is banned in other countries because it enhances performance.
Supporters said the race-day ban of the drug would improve the sport's public image, which could attract new fans for a sport that has struggled in the completion for gambling dollars.
Commission Chairman Robert Beck Jr. said thoroughbred racing has suffered from a misperception that the sport is "drug infested."
Opponents countered that the proposal would saddle Kentucky with a competitive disadvantage that would drive away trainers and horses. They warned no other state would follow Kentucky's lead in imposing a race-day ban on furosemide. It would take just one subpar performance by a thoroughbred running without race-day Lasix to prompt the trainer to move the horse elsewhere, they said.