ALBUQUERQUE — New Mexico regulatory officials want to test more racehorses for illegal substances, and a legislator is proposing a way to pay for it.
A bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces would provide the Racing Commission with about $1 million a year for testing.
That’s nearly three times as much as the state now spends from its general fund to pay for testing, The Albuquerque Journal reported.
Papen’s bill would get the proposed additional money by redirecting horse racing tax revenue that now pays off bonds for improving the state fairgrounds. That funding allotment is set to end in 2014.
Papen is offering the funding proposal at a time when the Racing Commission is taking steps to crack down on horse doping.
Vince Mares, executive director of the New Mexico commission, said the additional money for testing would allow many more racehorses to be tested for illegal substances.
The additional testing would enable the state to conduct random drug tests on horses training at stables under the commission’s jurisdiction, not just horses actually competing in races.
The commission already has adopted rules that include heavier penalties for drug cases.
The New York Times last March reported that New Mexico’s five racetrack-casinos collectively had the worst safety record in the nation, and that lax rules allowed trainers to illegally drug their horses with near impunity.
The newspaper reported that the horse racing industry nationally was mired in a culture of drugs and lax regulation as well as a disturbing fatal breakdown rate among horses.