In wake of doping scandal, Kentucky may fund national testing lab

By Ryan Dickey | Horse Racing Nation

Kentucky legislators have passed a one-year budget for the upcoming fiscal year with three initiatives intended to bolster the integrity of horse racing in the state and on a national level. 

An $11.3 billion general fund budget is awaiting approval by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. Three horse racing-specific items represent $2.1 million of that total for the new fiscal year beginning July 1. 

If the budget is approved and the horse racing initiatives survive the governor’s line-item veto power, the state will add a safety steward and additional investigators to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, help fund a national medication testing laboratory and pay for a research project to study jockey injury and concussion protocols.

“There’s been a goal for a couple of years for Kentucky to have a national testing lab, not only for racing in Kentucky but for other states,” said Damon Thayer, the Senate Majority Floor Leader. “The timing was right with the news of the indictments last month to try to tackle the problem of illegal medications in racing on the front end and the back end.”

The medication testing lab would work with the bolstered investigative arm of the KHRC. Another item in the budget was to add a position in the KHRC as well as additional investigators tasked with making sure all Kentucky medication rules are adhered to on the backside of the state’s race tracks. Read full report »

We Say

Horse racing is running scared. Perhaps not fast enough. You should have gotten your hurry on when Justify (pictured above) knowingly failed a dope test which tarnished the Triple Crown. Where were you then Kentucky? Instead, it takes a huge, highly embarrassing bunch of drug busts — which you had nothing to do with by the way — for you to act. Had this on your mind for a couple of years? If it weren’t for those drugs busts you would still be sitting on your hands.

In the meantime, none of this has anything to do with the safety of the horses themselves. At the end of the day, medications not considered performance enhancing but destructive to the health and viability of the racehorse, will still be allowed, right? That means horses will continue to break down and die. So, at the end of the day, what this appears to really be about is an attempt to regain the public trust in order to protect your gambling revenues.

Then there is this. It puts the drug testing of racehorses into racing’s hands and not into the hands of an independent body — independent of racing — such as the USADA (U.S. Anti Doping Agency) which the Horseracing Integrity Act would accomplish, for a while anyway.

Gambling revenues

According to the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, prize money for races worldwide reach almost $3.5 billion a year, while the global betting industry for horse racing generates over $116 billion in revenue each year. (Dec. 2017)

Fund for Horses Logo

Featured Image: Triple-Crown Winner Justify gallops at Churchill Downs. Andy Lyons / Getty Images.

Second Image: Triple Crown winner Justify, in 2018. Pinterest.

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