SYDNEY -- Most of the racing world views with disapproval America's permissive medication rules and its extensive use of the drug Lasix to treat bleeders. But the advocates of Lasix in the United States have made a strong case that we are right and the rest of the world is wrong.

The gist of the argument is this: Bleeding in racehorses is a problem of almost epidemic proportions. In addition to the animals who may visibly gush blood from their nostrils after a race or workout, more than 50 percent of all horses will bleed internally. Not only does it makes sense to use a medication that can treat this condition, the unique rigors of American racing virtually demand it.

Perhaps the pampered thoroughbreds of Europe can get along without medication, for they are raced sparingly and their racing season is a limited one. But American horses are asked to compete year-round on hard tracks, and they don't have the luxury of taking long rests as a cure for bleeding. The industry that demands so much of them should give them a little help.

This is a persuasive argument, but there is one large body of evidence to contradict it: the nature of horse racing in Australia. Here too there is year-round racing. Here too there are hard, sun-baked grass courses. And here the horses are subjected to rigorous campaigns. U.S. trainers scarcely would have believed the regimens of the horses who were entered in the two-mile Melbourne Cup. One of the favorites came into the country's richest race after running eight 1 1/2-mile races in the previous three months -- the most recent of them three days before the Cup. And that type of schedule is commonplace.

Yet the sport here somehow manages to get along without Lasix, and with tough rules governing bleeders. "If a horse here bleeds visibly from both nostrils," said John Carruthers, veterinarian for the Sydney Turf Club, "he has to stay away from the races for three months and to be out of training for one month. Before he races again, he has to work 1,000 meters {five furlongs} for the stewards. And if he bleeds again, he cannot race here anymore. Goodbye."

What happens to such bleeders who are barred from racing?

"We sell them to America," Carruthers said.

Australians don't dispute the contention of America's pro-Lasix lobby that a majority of horses suffer from respiratory troubles of some kind. Here too veterinarians use endoscopic examinations to peer into horses' throats, and they see the same kinds of problems. "We 'scope quite a few of our horses," said a leading Sydney trainer, "and I think maybe 75 percent of them bleed. But if a horse shows a bit of blood in his lungs we don't consider it a big problem. You just keep going with them."

That is the prevailing view here. When Craig Suann, veterinarian for the Australian Jockey Club, was asked about this large number of horses who suffer from internal bleeding, he said: "I think 'suffer' is a bit too emotive a word. If you 'scoped human athletes you'd find a lot with blood in the lungs. It's a consequence of heavy exertion." He could see the logic in America's answer to the bleeding question, but said: "Ours is a philosophical approach. We've adopted a drug-free approach to racing, and drugs like Lasix are forbidden."

In the last three months, 20 horses bled from both nostrils after races at the Sydney metropolitan tracks, and two of them earned lifetime bans. Suann acknowledged that this creates a financial hardship for the owners, but he said: "You've got to consider the welfare of the horse, not just the welfare of the owner. Once you allow bleeders, you're going to have situations where horses drop dead in a race."

The horse being hurt the most by Australia's medication rules is a tough 6-year-old named Super Impose, who has earned $1.7 million. He was being pointed for the Japan Cup when he bled after a race in mid-October. Instead of running in one of the world's richest races, he was forced to the sideline.

When he resumes competition, he will be managed gingerly, because another bleeding incident will end his racing career here. Anthony Freedman, assistant to his brother, Lee, who trains the horse, agreed that it would have been wonderful to use Lasix in such a situation. But, he said: "Everyone gets used to living without something, don't they?"

And that is probably the main difference between the Australian and the U.S. views of medication. American horsemen have become so reliant on Lasix they can't imagine how the sport could exist without it. Their counterparts in Australia accept that they have to operate without medication, and the game manages to survive quite well.