LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has heeded the call to crack down on illegal drugs in horse racing, unanimously approving stiffer penalties for offenders.
The proposed new testing aims to catch prohibited performance enhancing drugs that have been in a horse's system long enough to go undetected. Some of these banned drugs help create more red blood cells, which allow the horses to carry more oxygen.
Richard Samms with the Horse Racing Forensics Laboratory of Sports Science explains why the ability to carry more oxygen gives horses an unfair edge.
"Oxygen is consumed during competition, and the deficiency in oxygen toward the end of the race or competition is what causes us to get tired and lose our ability to perform," Samms said.
The one sticking point was the penalty ban included in the legislation. Some commissioners felt suspending violators for one to three years of was too weak, while a proposed 10-year suspension adopted by four other states was considered too harsh.
"All four of them have a straight penalty of a 10-year suspension, and I don't know why Kentucky should have a weaker penalty," said Alan Leavett with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. "It's just as damaging to the business in Kentucky as it is for those other four jurisdictions."
So they reached a compromise: offenders will face a ban of 5 to 10 years. Once the ban expires, the offender must reapply for a license to the racing committee. The board will then decide whether or not to reinstate the license.
"If you give them a 1-year suspension, you're putting them out of business, so the discussion between 5 and 10 years - I hate to say - is irrelevant," said Tom Ludt with the KHRC. "But if someone gets five years or seven years - I do not see the difference in that."
Moving forward, Kentucky will apply for an emergency regulation, which means the governor can sign and enact it immediately - hopefully in time for the upcoming Breeders' Cup.