What Good Is A Model Rule In Horse Racing If No One Follows It?

by | 03.21.2016 | 4:24pm
This map represents the varying levels of rule adoption when it comes to anabolic steroids
This map represents the varying levels of rule adoption when it comes to anabolic steroids

Imagine, for a minute, that the rules governing the National Football League were developed the same way as horse racing regulations.

During an annual meeting, personnel from the NFL league office would discuss and approve “model rules” for the game, then team owners around the league would be encouraged – but not required – to adopt them. We might have instant replay to help officiate games in Chicago but not in Green Bay. The Houston Texans may decide they don't want to follow protocol for concussions. The Seattle Seahawks could develop their own definition of pass interference. And the New England Patriots might thumb their nose at the league's “model rule” for inflating footballs.

That's how racing works.

On Tuesday, the Association of Racing Commissioners International kicks off its annual conference in New Orleans, La., and the first item on the agenda is a meeting of the Model Rules Committee.

This is a committee comprised of racing commissioners and executive directors of regulatory agencies from around the country. Here's how the RCI describes the committee's role:

“The Model Rules are all encompassing,” a statement on the RCI website reads. “They affect Thoroughbred, Standardbred, Quarter horse and Greyhound racing. Regulatory entities are encouraged to adopt the Model Rules by reference as a way to enhance uniformity of regulation in a sport that has evolved to be multi-jurisdictional.”

Notice the word “encouraged” in that statement.


Committee members take their jobs seriously, crafting rules for specific aspects of racing. It might be to create a Model Rule for pre-race examination of horses, or the dimensions and proper use of a riding crop. The Model Rule could apply to wagering, medication regulations, licensing requirements or any other part of the game that is regulated.

Then, once the committee approves the rule it goes to the RCI board for ratification. Finally, individual state racing commissions are encouraged to adopt it.

I don't blame the people making up racing's Model Rules. They do good work, and the rules are sensible and serve a purpose. Sometimes, however, the people who serve on committees to develop Model Rules ignore them when they return to their regulatory duties in their home state.

Let's look at some examples.

In 2008, the RCI approved a Model Rule regulating the use of extracorporeal shock wave therapy. This is a useful therapeutic treatment for horses that also can be abused because of its lingering analgesic effect. If a horse doesn't feel pain, it is more susceptible to catastrophic injury, putting the life of the horse and rider in jeopardy.

The RCI's Model Rule prohibits horses from racing within 10 days of receiving shock wave therapy. It requires treatments be reported to the official veterinarian.

How could any state regulatory agency, in good conscience, not adopt this Model Rule?

Yet, according to a progress map published on the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium website, 11 racing states – including Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania – do not have regulatory guidelines for shock wave therapy.

In 2007, the RCI approved a Model Rule for out-of-competition drug testing. Some form of this testing – the kind designed to catch blood-doping cheaters – has been approved by just 13 of 26 states, according to RMTC. Yet only a handful of those states are actually conducting out-of-competition testing, even though The Jockey Club has made grant money available for this specific purpose.

“The failure to follow through on out-of-competition testing is the most egregious example of noncompliance of an integrity-based model rule, ever,” said Joe Gorajec, a former member of the RCI's Model Rules Committee.

Gorajec, who served as executive director of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission for nearly 25 years, is now working as a consultant for the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, an industry organization supporting federal legislation that would create an independent, non-governmental agency to oversee medication regulations nationally. The legislation, the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015, would put the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in a position of responsibility, similar to its roles overseeing drug rules and testing of the U.S. Olympic team and other amateur and professional sports.

Even in two areas where the industry has patted itself on the back for progressing toward uniformity – regulation of anabolic steroids and creation of a National Uniform Medication Program – the RCI's Model Rules have not been adopted universally as written.

The RMTC map for anabolic steroid regulations – adopted as a Model Rule in 2008 – looks like a Christmas tree with 10 different-colored ornaments representing varying degrees of restrictions on this muscle-building and performance-enhancing substance.

And only half of the states have adopted the Multiple Medication Violation penalties – one of four elements in the National Uniform Medication Program approved by RCI as a Model Rule in 2013 (the three other elements being a two-tiered drug classification system, third-party Lasix administration, and RMTC drug-test lab accreditation).

There is some irony in Louisiana State Racing Commission vice chairperson Judy Wagner being the RCI's chairperson-elect at this year's conference, conducted in her home state. According to the RMTC map, the Louisiana Racing Commission has failed to adopt three of the four National Uniform Medication Program segments, and it has no regulations on the use of shock wave therapy. Louisiana has been an outlier in medication regulation for years before Wagner was appointed to the commission.

Gorajec, the former regulator who helped push many RCI Model Rules through the Indiana Horse Racing Commission during his tenure there, said the solution is easy. “Federal legislation known as Barr-Tonko is the cure for the many failures of model rule compliance,” he said. “Integrity and uniformity can be ours virtually overnight – if we want it.”

  • David Worley

    This is precisely the problem with the ‘states rights’ notion of political governance.

    • Correct.

    • Bourbon Man

      And why, even though the masses have been told differently by a certain network, the Federal Government is necessary and effective.

      • Peter Scarnati

        I agree. Necessary and effective in a handful of areas. Reckless and ineffective to the point of taking away personal liberty in many, many, many others.

        • Bourbon Man

          What personal liberty has been taken from you, Peter?

          • Peter Scarnati

            The right to keep the health insurance plan I had a couple of years ago. Or maybe the right not to have to buy one at all.

          • michael stapler

            WOW. Kill shot. Nice!

          • Concerned Observer

            You mean the great health plan that let people without insurance go to the hospital, get care, dump the bill on the hospital, so then the hospital could charge it to me as “overhead” and raise my insurance costs. Yea, that was a great system. I bet thoe people loved their “Old Plan”.

          • Peter Scarnati

            Same things apparently still go on today. I keep hearing Democrat candidates for the Presidency continually demagogue about the “millions” who are (apparently, still) uninsured. Thought Obamacare was supposed to end that.

          • michael stapler

            I was agreeing with you. I understand. I work for a living, albeit in another fashion. I have to pay for everything. I am my own job. Healthcare. Insurance. Etc. All on me. Not cheap.

          • The Prime Rib Minister

            Peter, does the state you live in require that you have auto insurance? My state does. And no, I don’t see it as an infringement on my liberties.

            But, to address the first part of your comment, I am sorry you didn’t get to keep your health insurance plan. That sucks.

          • Noelle

            As you rightly point out, it’s your STATE which sets the terms for auto insurance, not the federal government. My state allows me to set my own deductibles and other options in my auto insurance plan and pay accordingly. Maybe yours is the same. Because I’m a pretty good driver, my auto insurance is relatively cheap. My health insurance costs, since Obamacare, have skyrocketed – deductibles are through the roof and I pay a good deal more out of pocket for services that cost substantially less under the previous system.

            IMO Obamacare has done NOTHING to lower the cost of healthcare for anyone but the same people who were getting it free at the hospital anyway – so where’s the benefit?

          • Peter Scarnati

            Perfecto Noelle. Couldn’t have said it more eloquently myself!

          • The Prime Rib Minister

            OK, so the STATE can take away our God-given-star-spangled-American-as-apple-pie rights to be uninsured while driving, but the COUNTRY cannot take away our rights to not have health insurance. Got it.

          • Bourbon Man

            So you can go to the emergency room when something does go wrong? I see. A pragmatist (eye roll). I cannot use lead paint or lead gasoline anymore either. Phewie! Darn that central government, taking away my right to pollute.

    • Concerned Observer

      Can you imagine trying to manage Wal Mart with a different computer system in each of the 50 states? But we hear that every state needs it’s own education system because kids are different in each place and mathematics and physics are different in Texas and New York! That is why some rank 48th.

      No major corporation chooses to manage it’s business on a state by state model.

      • michael stapler

        Yet they let the horses race in ANY state they want to. nice point.

    • Peter Scarnati

      And a leviathan central government, controlled by a handful of masterminds directing unelected bureaucrats, is the solution? Not in America if we respect our Constitution as the law of the land.

      • The Prime Rib Minister

        Sigh. No, that is not what anyone here was talking about. Our national government has elected leaders. Pull your head out of the Tea Party sand and you would recognize that.

        • Peter Scarnati

          Sigh…. I was replying to Mr. Worley’s original comment. I would suggest you read what he said….
          BTW, are bureaucrats who impose rules on all of us from the EPA, Dept of Ed, USDA, FCC, SEC, HHS (to name only a fraction) elected by anyone??

          • The Prime Rib Minister

            I did read what he said. Elected leaders appoint the heads of those agencies. That way, they are accountable to an elected official.

          • Peter Scarnati

            Accountable and elected are two completely different things. Too bad you can’t (or don’t want to) distinguish the difference.
            And Mr. Worley makes no mention of “elected leaders” in his OP. He was merely advocating his position against States Rights.

          • The Prime Rib Minister

            Do you even read what you type? Voters elect an official. That official appoints agency heads. That agency head appoints and hires people under him/her. The bureaucrats that work in that agency are accountable to the agency head, who is accountable to the elected official who is, in turn, accountable to the voters. Most people understand this. But not you apparently.

            With regard to states rights, Ray’s piece outlines clearly how ridiculous it is that we don’t have one set of national rules in horse racing. Not sure why you’re having so much trouble understanding this concept.

          • Peter Scarnati

            Not speaking about horse racing here. I could care less if there are national rules or rules continue to be administered state to state. That is something for the racing industry to decide. That you believe the current structure is “ridiculous” is purely an opinion. Could be right, could be wrong.
            So you think that by the voters electing a President, that gives the EPA, for example, the authority to impose whatever regulation they want without any vote on that regulation by our elected officials in Congress? Wow, that is some stretch on how our system was originally supposed to work. Please show me where this is permitted under the Constitution.

          • The Prime Rib Minister

            Look, pal, I’m not sure what you have against clean air and clean water. Since you hate clean water, I might suggest buying a vacation home in Flint, Michigan.

            In any case, have fun at the Republican National Convention this summer. Are you a Trump guy or a Cruz guy? Either way, I hear that convention is gonna be a real doozy.

          • Peter Scarnati

            As I suspected. When there is nothing intelligent left to say and thoroughly beaten on this specifics of the issue, go to the decades old playbook and pull out the name calling and personal attacks pages. So predictable. Knew it was coming from your reference to the Tea Party in your OP.

          • Bourbon Man

            If the shoe fits, Peter, one must wear it.

          • The Prime Rib Minister

            Peter, I tried pasting a link from the EPA’s website about how all of that stuff works, but it looks like this site didn’t allow my comment.

          • michael stapler

            Nice. 2 kill shots in one day!

          • The Prime Rib Minister

            How so?

            Ray Paulick, I really wish you would’ve allowed my comment with the link to go through. It would help educate these people on how government works here in the US of A.

          • The Prime Rib Minister

            Thanks Ray!

          • Bourbon Man

            He could move to the lovely coast of Somalia, where there is very little government to take away his “personal liberties”.

          • Concerned Observer

            Congress delegated that authority to the agency in the original act and gave direction of that agency to the Pres. Congress can take back the authority, but it is easier just to rail against the opposing party, than to actually do something. This is all show for theatrics. You need to learn how government actually works

          • Bourbon Man

            Rules made by elected officials.

        • 1947goldenjet

          The National Government is elected is a correct statement. However, the country is run by unelected bureaucrats.

          • The Prime Rib Minister

            Those bureaucrats answer to an agency head, who was appointed by an elected official.

          • 1947goldenjet

            Agency heads are unelected. Those underneath them are unionized. The EPA,IRS,FTC,FCC etal. issue rules and regulations everyday that never get approved by an elected official, unless you want to call their lack of scrutiny as approval.

      • Concerned Observer

        I can think of something even worse than a giant bureaucratic mess….it is 50 giant bureaucratic messes.

      • longtimehorsewoman

        The NFL is not a giant leviathan central government. Why do you jump right to the government. Racing should be overseen by a central racing authority. That has nothing to do with the any federal government.

        • tony a

          He must be a Bernie Sanders fan. I would bet on assistance.

        • Jocke Muth

          So we should wait for the next century then before all the states come to an agreement then another 50 years of mooning, screaming & blackmailing (withholding simulcast signals) from the HBPA’s before any change?
          Sounds like a smart plan, NOT.

        • Bourbon Man

          Peter must benefit from the lack of oversight …

      • Bourbon Man

        Controlled by a handful of “masterminds” because of unbridled election money via Citizen’s Untied ruling and the proliferation of lobbyists since 1980. Take the special interest money out of elections and it becomes our government again.

      • David Worley

        Peter, Bourbon Man and others are already arguing with you and I have no energy to expend towards this ends. I will merely point out to you that, if you read my prior comment about states rights, your response is (as a matter of scale) disproportionate to my comment. This fact is precisely one of my top three (thought) problems with contemporary political conservatives. Put differently, your reaction to my comment is not consonant with what was said.

        • Peter Scarnati

          Respectfully disagree David. Your OP (as a matter of scale) is extremely wide in scope, not to mention provocative. I’m sure you would agree that phrases such as ‘political governance’ and ‘states rights’ indeed cover a great deal of real estate. I think the two sentences I devoted to my rejoinder was appropriate.

          • David Worley

            I am all for respectful discourse, although i will still stand by exactly what I said as I am sure you will too. Best to you.

  • Phil Schoenthal

    Can’t the solution be easier than Federal Legislation? Why can’t the Jockey Club just say, “Starting in 2018 no stakes races will be given black type or graded status in the stud book unless rules/testing in the jurisdiction in which it is run are as follows…..” No state, especially the ones that matter, will stand by and let their stakes program, or state bred stakes program, be neutered.

    • TJC has nothing to do with whether stakes are Graded, as this is the province of the Graded Stakes Committee, overseen by TOBA (Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association).

      • togahombre

        toba ‘s threat to remove the graded status of the stakes races at parx a while back got their attention

        • And, as a voting member of TOBA, I certainly want TOBA to stand up to anyone who vows to sabotage any progress made in the elimination of raceday medications, particularly in stakes races where only the best athletes should be competing without medicinal influence of any kind.

  • Quinnbt

    Go tell the NFL owners that no joint injections or pain medications can be used, see is that flies.

    • Bourbon Man

      When your horse can tell you it wants pain killer or joint injections

    • Bellwether

      Apples & Oranges and the Horse being the Apple…Now if race Horses were all like Mr. Ed…

      • tony a

        So you never saw a person walking and said, your back hurt? Your knee hurt? How’d you know if they didn’t tell you first?

        • Bellwether

          U miss my swish and your shot was a BRICK!!!…

  • Alan Shuback

    The analogy of NFL teams adopting rules- or not- as might be recommended by the NFL works well when transferred to the reason why everyone watches the Super Bowl while practically no one watches the Breeders’ Cup. If the NFL televised just five or six games per year on network television (which is about the number of races televised annually on network TV), how may people would watch the Super Bowl? Answer: About as many as watch the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

    • Bellwether

      If NBC really wanted to promote it’s Horse racing brand why in the world don’t they have the brains to televise the ‘Dubai World Cup’ and the ‘Florida Derby’ just to name a few???…

      • Mimi Hunter

        NBC is allergic to horses, and has been for as long as I can remember (and I’m 68 with a pretty good memory)

  • Jocke Muth

    And it’s the HBPA’s that are blocking all changes.

    • Bourbon Man

      If that doesn’t tell you what time of day it is, nothing will.

    • artistinwax

      What does HBPA stand for? It wasn’t mentioned in the article.

      • Deef

        Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protection Association

      • Jocke Muth

        “Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association”

    • Bellwether

      hbpa IS a WART on “THE GAME” in every sense of the word and then some…Those clowns need to be done away with coast to coast sooner than later…

  • Bellwether

    Let’s hope the good old boys in DC get busy and pass H.R. 3084…U nailed it Ray…

  • Jack Frazier

    Stuff and nonsense. If they wanted to fix the problems they could. It is not and would not be that hard. Owners, trainers, jockeys, vets and other sundry folks in the business would have to sign a binding agreement to follow the dictates of the ruling body or their entries would not be taken, they couldn’t ride, sell feed or practice medicine on the track. In addition, the fines would be so stiff and the suspensions would be so long that those involved would be forced play clean or lose their livelihood. All parties, owners, trainers, jockeys and vets would face fines or suspensions equally, if a horse is found to have illegal or overages. Jockeys would lose their money, owners, trainers and vets would received the same suspensions and fines. As far as I know, vets seem to be free of any disciplinary actions if a horse has failed a drug test. Maybe a handful but the most egregious slide. Form a committee and wait because they, the racing establishment, won’t make or take a stand on the issue. It is all about the bottom line and as I said, the rest if stuff and nonsense..

    Of course the jailhouse lawyers would begin to open frivolous lawsuits and the transgressors would e able to continue indefinitely. It will not change anytime soon.

    • longtimehorsewoman

      You hit the nail on the head!!! IF they wanted to change things would change. The way it is now works for trainers, as there are loopholes and the ability to squeak through with excuses like oh, I didn’t know forgot where I was.

      • Bourbon Man

        My groom ate a bagel

        • michael stapler

          How many here understand that reference? Nice one!

          • tony a

            All the potheads.

      • Jack Frazier

        For sure. They will not change and racing will just get worse.

  • kathy byrne

    Excellent article. Even if every commission willingly adopted every ‘recommendation’, each state would follow a different timeline and appellate review schedule. They would never be on the same page because every change in threshold levels would have to go through the process again in each state.
    It’s indisputable that racing in the 21st century is an interstate, intertwined sport, it’s unfair to have different standards in different states.

  • Ship Wreck

    Lol shockwave 10 days out in California try 3 cause no one enforces it. Actions speak louder than words Magna.

  • kim

    Those states that don’t adhere to the model rules will never ! They are above the law!

  • Jerry

    At this point, who really cares because Horseracing will be off the radar in a few more generations, just like the Killer Whales at SEA WORLD!

    Sad but true!

    • Bourbon Man

      Killer whales are feral animals. Horses have been domesticated for thousands of years – BIG DIFFERENCE!!!

      • tony a

        Aren’t dogs domesticated? Dog racing pretty much died.

      • carate

        You would be wrong

        • Bourbon Man

          How, carate? What part of my statement is not factual? Feral animals are never without anxiety in captivity. Ding-dong homo sapiens who compare them to domesticated species are wrong.

  • kcbca1

    It seems like we are taking a step backwards in this discussion by questioning the legality of HR 3084. I could write the brief to prove it’s constitutional but trust me, it is.

  • Daybreak Stables, Inc.

    For those of us in racing that race in several states, it would be excellent to have a universal set of rules, thresholds, withdraw times, pre-race protocols, etc. The only issue I have is a regulatory body (USADA) creating, overseeing and enforcing rules in a sport they know NOTHING about. You can say “drugs are drugs,” but the reality is, horse racing is different than human sports. We need knowledgeable, reasonable, horse people, with INTEGRITY, overseeing racing rules and compliance.

  • Mary (M.R.) Perdue

    Maria Sharapova, one of the most elite and highly paid female athletes in the history of sport, is likely out of the game for at least 2 years for taking a substance that was legal for the past ten years and banned only in the last few months. That’s because tennis is a real sport with real governing bodies (WADA, WTA, ITF, etc.) that performs out of competition testing and enforces. Imagine if she could take the drug when playing in Australia but not in the US, etc. No one is protecting equine athletes who are subjected to whatever their connections think they should be. When something egregious happens , there’s a slap on the wrist and a $250 fine. Anyone who shock waves a horse until he can’t feel pain should be banned for life.

    • Bourbon Man

      Or dopes their blood until it is so thick that they drop dead of cardiac arrest.

  • David

    Some really insightful observations. I personally have gravitated to the opinion Racing was never really meant to be a “national sport”. Moreover, those in any sort of decision-making capacity really don’t wish it to be anyway. In my lifetime Racing has gone from being – perceived or otherwise – as truly the ‘Sport of KIngs’ to a desire to wake up and catch up back to being comfortable again with being a rich person’s hobby, kind of full circle if you will. Occasionally, a segment will expend some energy to promote reform but all such initiatives pass with time. If you accept Racing on those terms, its a wonderful diversion; it you take it seriously, however, you’re destined to remain frustrated.

    • Bourbon Man

      It has been “nationalized” by intra-state betting. It needs governance

      • carate

        You would be wrong

      • David

        Assume you meant inTER-state betting. Yes, the advent of the exchange of product across state lines did bring the hope that this new dependence upon one and other (for product) would lead to a more cohesive group. Unfortunately, 30 years later, Racing is a splintered as ever.

  • How long now has it been that we, as an industry, have been lobbying for uniform medication regulations? How long have we been talking about federal legislation to address the multitude of drug-testing and enforcement problems? How many racing commissions are comprised of political appointees? There are so many “how many,” “how long,” “why” and “how to” questions and yet, we are still talking about the same problems. Seriously, how many people are righteously frustrated of the glacial pace of progress?

    • Bourbon Man

      everyone who isn’t cashing in from the cheating.

    • Ben van den Brink

      Blocking and saving time, that,s were this is gooiing about. The industry in itself, is not in favour for real uniform medications regulations, and the committee,s are not likely to spend real bucks on testing.

  • Peter Scarnati

    No Rib. No name calling. I just hate clean water…..

  • Ray Saputelli

    Because your industry is among the most brutal, morally bankrupt, businesses on the planet. Not a sport, but a greed driven opportunity for adrenaline junkies to feed their addiction at the expense of the horses that you exploit.

    • carate

      Odd comment, maybe find another sport to follow since your so disenchanted. Every day is a gift.

  • Pointless! As the model rule is not enforced, what is the point of the Committee?

  • Joseph

    We should all join the union, if we were all together in the union we would had a strong voice

Twitter Twitter
Paulick Report on Instagram