Before I stumbled into the idea of forming partnerships to own race horses in 1969, I was chairman of a major advertising agency in Atlanta. What we told our clients emphatically was if you talk the talk, you had better be ready to walk the walk.
So for the past four decades, I've applied that philosophy when making business decisions in the horse racing industry as well. As part of the Water Hay Oats Alliance I take the responsibility of being an industry member seriously – especially now, when public research and race attendance show that our sport is in decline.
Those of us who are fortunate enough to make our living as owners, breeders, trainers or even jockeys would do well to remember that responsibility; that when legitimate calls for improvement are made, we don't stick our heads in the sand, or argue for the status quo. We must take up the mantle to ensure this wonderful sport has a future based on fairness and long-term solutions.
A real turnaround can't take place until we credibly tackle the issue of drug testing and enforcement. Most horsemen, trainers, owners, and veterinarians play by the rules. But because we lack uniform, national testing and enforcement standards, we all get painted with a negative brush.
And unlike other sports, the equine athletes that compete on our racetracks can't speak or advocate for themselves. This makes our advocacy even more critical.
In the nearly 50 years that I've been involved in horse racing, we have tried to tackle this problem from the inside out. But it hasn't worked. It's time for a new approach – national reform.
Bipartisan legislation has been introduced by U.S. Reps. Andy Barr, R-Ky., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., the co-chairs of the Congressional Horse Caucus, that will empower the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to create a national, uniform drug testing and enforcement program in partnership with representatives from the horse racing industry. This agency is a non-profit, non-governmental organization with a proven record of creating uniform regulations that protect the integrity of competition from athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs.
This proposed legislation has the support of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, whose diverse members include the Water Hay Oats Alliance, The Jockey Club, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, Breeders' Cup Ltd., Inc., The Humane Society of the United States, and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, as well as several new co-sponsors from around the country.
This bill – the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015 – offers a balanced, common sense approach, and the best chance to improve transparency and uniformity in American Thoroughbred horse racing. You can read more about the bill and review an outline of its key elements at www.horseracingintegrity.com.
The time for reform is now! And, believe me, it is way past due.
If reforms are not implemented, the sport risks losing not only credibility and sponsors, but two groups that are the lifeblood of Thoroughbred racing – owners and fans.
A national medication program, developed and administered by this agency can quickly bring rigor, consistency and greater integrity to Thoroughbred racing.
It would provide renewed confidence to trainers, veterinarians and fans while bringing the U.S. up to the level of other international racing jurisdictions.
These are the necessary steps to ensure the long-term viability of our beloved sport, and it is our responsibility to support them.
Cothran “Cot” Campbell is president of the Dogwood Stable, the original racing partnership. Dogwood's horses include 80 stakes winners, seven with trips to the Kentucky Derby, a Preakness and Belmont winner, seven millionaires, two Eclipse Awards and a Breeders' Cup victory. He is also a member of the Water Hay Oats Alliance.
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