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Kentucky hires a horse expert

Mary Scollay, a veterinarian, will advise the state on steroid testing and other issues.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - A Florida veterinarian who has conducted a national investigation into breakdowns involving racehorses was tapped yesterday as Kentucky's first equine medical director, a post that will help advise on whether - and how - the state should impose steroid tests.

The hiring of Mary Scollay, who has spent the last 13 years as senior veterinarian at Calder Race Course in Miami and Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla., comes at a time when officials in Kentucky and other states have been under fire for not implementing a broad ban on anabolic steroids.

Scollay's duties for the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority will include recommending how to prevent illicit activities in horse medication and improving the review procedures for horse autopsies. Executive director Lisa Underwood said she would also provide integral advice when the authority considers whether to adopt sweeping steroid testing that only 10 states have enacted.

The question of whether - and when - to adopt a wide steroid ban has its critics, including some in the racing authority.

"I am all for regulating anabolic steroids, but we are not ready as far as our testing procedures," board member Foster Northrop said. "The amount of trouble we have convicting people now is only going to be manifested if we pass this rule too early."

Dan Fick, chairman of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, told the racing authority that researchers in Florida were nearing completion of a plasma test that could detect steroids in horses, eliminating the concerns of many veterinarians.

Although horses are tested for numerous performance-enhancing drugs, steroids have only recently come into the spotlight, in part because of a congressional investigation into baseball and other team sports.

While medication will be Scollay's focus in Kentucky, she is better-known across the country in the debate on whether synthetic racing surfaces are safer than dirt.

She developed the first national injury-reporting system, in which tracks now use a standardized form to signal the frequency and types of injuries to horses. Underwood said Scollay would continue to do that work in her new post.

Besides hiring Scollay, whose salary will be paid in part by the University of Kentucky Research Foundation, the racing authority announced that it was forming its own welfare and safety committee to examine horse-safety issues, including track surfaces, medication and other concerns.