Salix_3AE225By Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

Maryland racetracks will share uniform drug testing rules with seven other states in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast after the state’s racing commission gave final approval Tuesday to the new regional plan for thoroughbreds and standardbreds.

Under the new rules, which take effect Jan. 1, the states will share a list of 24 permitted substances, will allow only the anti-bleeding drug Lasix to be administered within 24 hours of a race and will guarantee that their testing labs are accredited.

The plan received broad support from Maryland horsemen, racing officials and jockeys, with the only significant opposition centering on a new ban of “adjunct” medications to limit bleeding. Maryland, Virginia and Louisiana currently permit the medications, and some longtime veterinarians have said the state should hold strong in allowing them.

“It’s an inhumane decision to get rid of the adjuncts,” said veterinarian George Harmening at Tuesday’s commission meeting in Laurel.

“In my opinion, we’ve looked closely at it, and this is something the commission needs to do,” replied chairman Bruce Quade. The plan then passed by a 4-1 vote.

The rules will apply to the 2014 Preakness on May 17 at Pimlico Race Course.

In the coming months, the commission will consider tougher penalties for trainers whose horses fail drug tests.

The other states that plan to adopt the program are New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia and Massachusetts.

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  1. The new rules are a little slow in coming. We must look back and feel sympathy for all of the horses that have been subjected to unnecessary poisons. Even now, the rules are not strict enough. Think about it this way. Imagine giving your children poorly tested medications as a way of forcing them to run faster or with less pain when they run. God forbid.

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