Jockey Club President: Reformed racing medication rules would enhance integrity of sport

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“There’s no legitimate use for dermorphin in racing. This drug in horses is an abuse of the horse. This puts the horse’s life in danger. It puts the jockey’s life in danger. This is an attempt to cheat. This is bad stuff. This is doping.’’
 
That is how Charles Gardiner, the executive director of the Louisiana State Racing Commission, reacted in the New Orleans Times-Picayune when news broke recently that 10 horses that had raced at Louisiana tracks has tested positive for the powerful, pain-killing drug dermorphin.
 
Only a few trainers in Louisiana have been named at this time, but we understand that there are dozens of dermorphin positives from multiple states on the horizon. The trainers in Louisiana whose horses have tested positive for dermorphin were issued six-month suspensions.

Three months ago, The Jockey Club published an updated version of its Reformed Racing Medication Rules. Those new rules feature a cumulative penalty system featuring stronger penalties for repeat violations. Fines, disqualifications and even lifetime suspensions would be possible for those persistently operating outside regulatory limits.
 
(They are available at: jockeyclub.com/pdfs/reformed_rules.pdf.)
 
If those rules were in effect in Louisiana, or any of the other states in which the same drug has been found recently, any trainer found to have treated a horse with dermorphin would have received, at a minimum, 150 points on his record, a 10-year suspension and a $37,000 fine.
 
It is abundantly clear that the current enforcement system is not working properly. The regulatory penalty structure has failed.
 
We see evidence of this with these blatant attempts by a few unscrupulous parties to beat our drug-testing system. We see more evidence of this in the high proportion of drug violations that only result in fines — fines that are trivial in amount when compared to the purses at stake.
 
Penalties for repeat offenders have been particularly and excruciatingly deficient.
 
In fact, there is no better example of the failure of our penalty system than dermorphin. According to published reports, one of the recent “positives” for dermorphin in Louisiana is associated with a horse whose trainer is alleged to have two prior Class 1 violations on his record. Drugs in this class, according to Racing Commissioners International guidelines, have no generally accepted medical use in the racing horse and their pharmacologic potential for altering the performance of a racing horse is very high.
 
Sadly, inconsequential penalties have become just another cost of doing business. Fines for medication violations are often no more than a small percentage of monthly drug and veterinary expenses in a stable.
 
The harm these incidents do to our sport is immeasurable and irreparable. The dermorphin (“frog juice”) stories ended up on the front page of The New York Times and on the TIME magazine website, among many other mainstream outlets.
 
We are not the only sport that plays constant catch-up on new performance-enhancing drugs. Look no further than the use of anabolic steroids in baseball or EPO in cycling.  
 
But the general public does not, and should not be expected to, differentiate between therapeutic and performance-enhancing drugs in racing. That is why all race-day medications should be prohibited.
 
The Jockey Club has committed substantial resources to reinvigorate the sport of Thoroughbred racing with a host of fan and owner development initiatives, ranging from television programming and social games and to the creation and launch of a new brand (America’s Best Racing).
 
But we cannot address sustainability issues for our sport until image, integrity, and animal welfare issues, triggered most of all by lax and inconsistent drug policies, are managed and contained.
 
Otherwise, we will suffer death by a thousand cuts.
 
Our hats go off to Petra Hartmann of Industrial Laboratories Co. Inc. in the Denver area for conducting research that led to the development of a post-race test that found and identified dermorphin.
 
Clearly, we need to improve the standards of all of our drug-testing labs, accredit them and then ensure that they share their common procedures and findings in a unified effort to improve the integrity of the sport.
 
Back in January, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) board of directors voted to shift the group’s main research focus from therapeutic medications to drugs that pose an immediate threat to the integrity of racing.


That was a good decision.


Regulators know we have to reform our rules, and so do most horsemen.


“Problems like we’re having now with dermorphin, quite simply, can be traced to three issues,” said Dr. Rick Arthur, the equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board. “Our laboratories are underfunded, our research is underfunded, and our penalties are inadequate.”


A longtime owner, breeder and trainer named Christine Janks recently took our industry to task for its lackadaisical approach to drugs and penalties in a commentary that appeared in the Paulick Report.
 
She said, “I wonder about all the people defrauded out of winnings while this has been going on, and I wonder if racing will ever get serious about getting rid of the criminals…. Maybe we ought to try a novel approach: Give the honest guy a chance.”
 
If someone within our industry feels that way, we can only imagine how fans or prospective fans feel as they digest reports about frog juice and other illegal elements.
 
It was heartening to see the Thoroughbred Racing Associations board of directors call for the implementation of uniform regulations regarding more restrictive use of a limited number of therapeutic drugs, a strong penalty structure for violators, and the elimination of treatment practices that could imperil the welfare of the horse when racing.
 
It is encouraging to see industry organizations such as Breeders’ Cup Limited and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association taking steps to reform drug policies, and it is comforting to see racing commissions moving in the same direction.
 
The decision by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on June 13 to begin a phase out of furosemide in graded or listed stakes races was one example.
 
New rules in New Mexico take effect July 31 and include lowering the legal level of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that horses can receive before racing, which was recommended by the RMTC and The Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Safety Committee.
 
Charles Gardiner is exactly right when he talks about dermorphin.
 
This is bad stuff. This is doping.
 
We need to make reforms and we need to do so now. The racing commissions of this country should redesign their rules. And the adoption of Reformed Racing Medication Rules is a good place to start.
 
James L. Gagliano is the president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club.

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  • David

    Really?  The doctors’ visit has come and gone and the script called in.  Problem is no one wants to go by the pharmacy much less do what’s been suggested.  So?  Better to just stay sick, right?  That and perhaps undertake another study.

  • roger

    Rick Arthur’s opinion……time has come in California to have a FULL INDEPENDENT ANALYSIS on Rick Arthur,UC Davis labs and money spent during a calendar year relating to drug testing,etc.

  • cepatton28

    The entire industry needs to be revamped.   Integrity needs to start with the breeders.  If the foal is crooked no corrective surgeries maybe cull the mare instead of squeezing the lemon for one more drop of juice.   Also, yearlings and two year olds in the sales should be subjected to the same drug testing as race horses.  That way the owners buying them would know what they are getting.   

  • Jackson

    Great idea.  Unfortunately, the Industry will spend the next foreseeable future putting up a smoke screen as they argue about the use of Salix!  The Industry has much bigger issues than Salix.  There is good reason to believe that Dermorphin is just one of many modified substances being used by the cheaters…..possible the MASSES??  How can the betting public have any confidence in a reactionary drug detection policy??  What is the budget for proactive reaearch??

  • LouBaranello

    Mr. Gagliano’s words, carefully chosen to comply with political correctness, dance all around the crux of the issue of medication violations.  I have no respect whatsoever for political correctness or any other form of not meaning what you say and not saying what you mean.  The medication problems that exist in the industry at present have their roots in the gross negligence demonstrated by stewards’ decisions and the subsequent reviews,or lack thereof, on the part of racing commissions.  Effective regulation by stewards and racing commissions would have put a stop to this activity years ago. 

    Funding for better testing and other problems also need help.  But,if the labs find it and the clowns appointed to deal with those findings are incompetent, no amount of funding for testing purposes is going to help the problem.  It must be attacked at its’ roots.  Will someone out there please oblige me with an argument against my position?  

  • Looking4Answers

    Ray:

    Could you please do an investigation/story on how the Phipps family has controlled The Jockey Club for so long? What is the governing structure? How are they elected? How do they choose high ranking employees? How do they decide their role in racing and their stance on important issues? How much money does the entity make and what do they do with that money? What does it mean to be “a Member of The Jockey Club”? Is there a Board? If so how are they elected? Are they compensated?

    I would assume that as the quasi governing body of the stud book and therefore the industry this information should be readily available.

  • Stanley inman

    Be more than glad to.
    To suggest that any one group by itself makes the regulations regarding drug violations doesn’t understand our industry.
    It’s a myth perpetuated to allow decision makers from being held accountable.
    Our rules result from the give and take negotiations between two principle groups:
    Horsemen representatives and state racing commissions.
    To a lessor degree tracks jump on board with a decision when it’s politically correct but usually stand quietly on the sidelines.
    Start at the beginning:
    Horsemen cheat
    Racing commissions punish cheaters;
    Horsemen lobby for lax punishment
    Racing commissions acquiesce because most feel their knowledge inferior to that of horsemen;
    They fear a bad decision will bring embarrassment to their governor.
    Horsemen assume zero responsibility, for their lobbying for lax rule making, they claim it’s just “rogue trainers”.
    If there was a modicum of leadership from horsemen groups the problem could be solved by kicking members out for lifetime for class l violations.
    Racing commissions and tracks would quickly join up.
    Horsemen cheat because they see other horsemen cheat with virtually no consequence.
    There were 55 class l violations in the last five years,
    We should surpass that this year alone,
    Why are the numbers growing?
    Because there are more trainers everyday getting away with murder.
    Horsemen representatives are enabling this despicable practice.
    We don’t get solutions from horsemen we get finger pointing to racing commissions;
    The uninformed take the bait and carry the water for horsemen who are killing our sport.

  • Stanley inman

    If horsemen reps went to a racing commission and said we are kicking out all class l violators for life,
    tracks would not stop them , racing commissions would follow their lead.
    Not a single horsemen group has taken such a stance;
    I predict horsemen will thwart all efforts by tracks and racing commission from instituting a lifetime ban for class l violators.
    Take my bet.

  • Polowonder

    It’s time to stop playing catchup and get ahead of the cheats.  Until you post an official in a vets truck to record time and use along with type of drug you will always be behind.  Stop pretending everyone is innocent until proven guilty.  The only innocent ones are the horses who have no say from conception to death.  And don’t give me that bull about how well they are cared for their whole lives.  twenty some hours per day in a 10×12 stall is not much of a life.  just look at you’re loacal zoo.  or prison.  Oh i know, they are worth so much and have the potential to earn so much, we would never abuse them.  Ten years and $37000 is not enough for someone who is placed in a position of responsibility and trust. 

  • http://fmitchell07.wordpress.com frank mitchell

    The Jockey Club owns the American Stud Book and registers all US-bred and other imported Thoroughbreds that are brought to the US for racing or breeding. 

    For answers to technical and statistical questions, you may read the Jockey Club’s extensive notes and information links at http://www.jockeyclub.com. That should provide interesting material for a while.

    The Jockey Club is not a public company, and its internal mechanisms, funding, and governance are not broadcast widely.

    Regards,
    Frank.

  • LouBaranello

    Mr. Inman, I agree with most of what you said, however I still maintain that if medication violations were properly adjucated by boards of stewards and not modified by commissions on appeal, these bad tests would become few and far between.  I submit that we are dealing with some trainers today who have no respect for the rules or a sense of fairness.  They can only be controlled with FEAR.  They must be given something to fear!  At present they do not have that for the reasons that you cited.  I was a steward for better than twenty years and if I learned anything, it was that the system works.  It must, however be properly administered.  Dropping the hammer on a few of these maggots will give them something to fear.  They need to be given years, not days, and in some cases LIFE. 

  • Stanley inman

    Lou,
    Nothing will change
    Until we hold horsemen reps, racing commissions and tracks accountable for class l violations.
    The jockey club should be ashamed to publically admit that if you commit a class one violation(for animal abuse) that the penalty is 150 points. 150 points?
    (WTF) does that mean?
    Makes you want to go out and inject them with a good dose of dermorphine!

    It shouldn’t be that hard to take a stand against animal abuse,
    How can Keeneland, Churchill, Saratoga not rule off those who blatantly abuse the horse.

  • tfly

    Want to enhance the integrity?  Start with the basics- no photo finish shots without the mirror image, otherwise the photo means nothing.  That digital line can be moved to anyplace during the stretch run. 

  • WILLIAM L. ANTON

    I guess they did not like my last comment, I dis”t Rick Arthur, so all I can say is I have no respect for him. Therefore, I guess I cannot view my opinion openly with The PR.  It’s Rays show, he can run it as he wishes.

  • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

    that crowd “quite frankly my dear” is OUTTA TOUCH!!!…PERIOD…

  • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

    AMEN…AMEN…AMEN!!!…turn out & SUNSHINE is CRITICAL for the HORSE…any HORSE…ty Sir…

  • Jimculpepper

    A rule that says unless the rules specifically allow a given practice or med, it is prohibited and you are out forever the second time that rule is broken, would clear away a lot of underbrush.

  • http://www.facebook.com/SaveStallions Mary Adkins-Matthews

    When horse fall down on the track bleeding to death perhaps that will also help the integrity of the sport? I think the Jockey Club maybe should worry about the biggest complain that the public has at this point which is horse slaughter. Athletes of this sport are being found every single day on their way to slaughter. Perhaps they should worry about that instead?

  • Watcher

    Mr. Gagliano,

    If The Jockey Club wishes to restore integrity to our sport it can start by opening membership in its good ‘ol boy’s club to us wee folk. Change your bylaws to require free elections to qualified candidates, including those who aren’t already among God’s chosen few. 

    If Russia can do it why not The American Jockey Club?

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