Fri, Feb 29, 2008 - Page 23 News List

US Congress doping probe extended to include horse racing

AP , LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY

The US Congress has expanded its probe into doping in sports to include horse racing, with one of the industry's top officials defending what he called a much improved, albeit still imperfect, system of testing.

Alexander Waldrop, president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, told a congressional panel on Wednesday that by the end of the year he expects virtually all major racing states to adopt a ban on the use of steroids for horses at least a month before they appear on the track.

"Is our testing protocol perfect? No," Waldrop told the House Energy and Commerce Committee's panel on commerce, trade and consumer protection. "Can it be improved? Absolutely. But the major industry stakeholders are united in their commitment to address drug and medication issues on a national basis."

Waldrop said horses are already subjected to the most rigorous drug testing in sports, although most of those tests focus primarily on drugs perceived to have a greater influence on performance. While steroids are sometimes important for training, Waldrop said the practice by some trainers of putting horses on excessive regimens close to race days must be stopped.

Despite those assurances, some lawmakers -- including Ed Whitfield of Kentucky -- argued horse racing lags far behind other sports in dealing with the problem of performance-enhancing drugs.

Whitfield suggested that if the sport doesn't take more aggressive steps to rid itself of steroids, the federal government might mandate the changes.

"Is it time to call the federal cavalry and send it chasing into your stables with guns blazing to clean up the sport of horse racing?" Whitfield said.

Although Whitfield didn't advocate any changes to current federal law, he asked hypothetically whether it would be appropriate to deny simulcasting rights to a state that refuses to comply with a steroid ban.

"No, that would not be unreasonable," Waldrop said.

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