The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission heard an avalanche of opposition Tuesday to the idea of limiting the use of a therapeutic drug in certain horse races. The controversy over the anti-bleeding drug, known by its brand name of Lasix, was the subject of a town hall meeting in Frankfort.
Most of the veterinarians, trainers and owners who testified spoke against the ban on race day use in graded stakes.
"I just don't see how it's going to be helpful to my animals and at the end of the day it's all about my animals,” said owner Jim Cauley.
A veterinarian, who also owns and trains horses, James Casey, testified that banning Lasix is a “danger to horse and jockey. “The horse that bleeds in a race, they are subject to stopping abruptly,” Casey said.
The stress of running hard causes nearly all horses to bleed in their lungs, a problem which the therapeutic drug reduces.
"Let facts and medical science rule the day over passionate beliefs,” said Phil Hanrahan with the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, a group representing 30,000 horsemen.."
The controversy pits the public’s perception of doping against the horses’ well being. "Lasix is not a performance enhancer, rather a performance enabler,” Rick Hiles, an owner and trainer, claimed."
Since 2005 Lasix has been the only race day medication allowed in Kentucky. "These horses are racing on bleeding medication only,” said Andy Roberts, a veterinarian.
The drug has been banned in Europe and Asia. "We are not in step with the rest of the world,” said William Koester, a small breeder, and a lone voice of support during the formal testimony.
"It is just beyond my belief that when you see all these foals run that everyone of them has to have a needle in their neck four hours before the race in order to compete,” Koester told the commission.
In April the state racing panel deadlocked 7-7 on a more stringent ban. The limited ban will be put to a vote at the commission’s next meeting June 13.