RCI President: Lou Pena case a ‘game changer’
RCI President Ed Martin said today that the case brought against Standardbred trainer Lou Pena by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board is a “game changer with wide ramifications for racing regardless of breed”.
“This is a new chapter, make no mistake about it,” he said, noting that New York’s reliance on veterinary records as evidence of an illegal administration rather than a laboratory finding is a new regulatory strategy that he predicted other regulatory agencies would emulate going forward.
Martin also said the case “diminishes” the role of the RMTC (Racing Medication and Testing Consortium) in recommending penalties by the imposition of fines substantially greater than those the RMTC recommends for Class 3 and 4 medication violations.
“While RCI and many regulators have adopted recommendations from the RMTC in this area we question the adequacy of their suggested penalties and are currently working with The Jockey Club and others to toughen sanctions, improve deterrence, and weed-out repeat offenders,” he said.
In the Pena case, Martin noted that NY imposed sanctions ten times what the RMTC recommends and that it was “certainly justified given the magnitude of the number of violations found”. According to the NY Board ruling (currently awaiting a hearing), Pena amassed drug violations in 675 races between January 2010 and April 2012, largely for Class 3 or Class 4 substances. Martin noted that commissions maintain total authority and discretion to determine penalties consistent with their governing statutes.
Last month in a speech at the RCI Convention in Oklahoma City, Martin suggested that racing commissions may need expanded jurisdiction over veterinarians and additional resources to review veterinary records and assess the appropriateness of the treatments being given horses in training.
“In light of the very legitimate equine welfare concerns that exist, it is prudent for lawmakers to reassess whether their racing commissions have the proper jurisdictional tools, authority and resources necessary to protect our horses, drivers and riders as well as the betting public,” he said.
Martin also said that while the Pena case demonstrated a cross jurisdictional cooperation between New York and New Jersey the time has come for passage of the RCI proposed Interstate Racing Regulatory Compact to institutionalize multi-jurisdictional cooperation, facilitate investigations and achieve a greater degree of uniformity.
NOTE: Mr. Martin’s comments do not represent the views of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, or any of its members, who reserve public comment while specific charges are pending before their agency and do not want, even remotely, to suggest a predisposition concerning the final outcome before Mr. Pena has had an opportunity for a full hearing. Mr. Martin’s comments are solely intended to assess the impact of the charges should they be upheld and should not be considered a recommendation to the New York State Racing on the merits of the case.