Commentary: USTA Lacks Understanding Of Federal Bill

by | 09.21.2017 | 1:44pm
Harness racing at the Meadowlands

The U.S. Trotting Association (USTA) recently issued a statement expressing its opposition to the Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2017 (officially known as H.R. 2651). The bill would lead to the creation of a private, independent horseracing anti-doping authority responsible for developing and administering a nation-wide anti-doping program for horse racing.

In short, the USTA opposes the provision in the bill requiring the elimination of race-day medications and it wants separate regulations regarding therapeutic medications for different horse breeds. The organization also took issue with the makeup of the board that would oversee the new anti-doping authority.

While the members of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity respect the USTA's yearning for breed-specific, uniform medication rules for horse racing, the reasons for their opposition to H.R. 2651 are based on faulty arguments and a clear lack of understanding of what the bill would actually do.

First of all, there is nothing in the legislation that says it is a one-size-fits-all anti-doping policy.

The Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority (HAMCA) will work with all breeds to determine what is the best policy on therapeutics, much like United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) did when developing the World Anti-Doping Code back in the early 2000s.

This has been explained to USTA leadership by coalition members on more than one occasion.

With respect to the experience of the board, the current version of the bill will actually result in a board that has more industry and anti-doping experience than the racing commissions in many states.

Half the members of HAMCA board of directors, excluding the USADA CEO, will be drawn from people with extensive experience within the horse racing industry. In contrast, the racing commissions in numerous states are comprised of persons with no horse racing experience. Further, under H.R. 2651, for the first time, the board of a horse racing anti-doping body will be legally required to have at least half of its board of directors staffed with anti-doping experts.

H.R. 2651 specifically bars persons with commercial conflicts of interest from serving as HAMCA board members. That is vastly different than today's landscape, where active owners, breeders, trainers and jockeys are serving, or have served, as racing commissioners.

The current system is woefully inadequate and actually encourages conflict of interest. That is death knell of any legitimate anti-doping program and you don't need to look any further than the Russian doping scandal to appreciate and realize that fact.

The USTA contention that “uniformity largely exists” is absurd on its face.  If the industry had uniformity, there would be no Water Hay Oats Alliance, no Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity and, frankly, no need for H.R. 2651.

Here are the facts:

According to the Racing and Medication Testing Consortium, of the 38 Racing jurisdictions, only six states have adopted all four “pillars” of the National Uniform Medication Program (NUMP).  Six states, out of 38, is an embarrassing 17% success rate.

The number of states that have adopted three of the four is not much better: just another eight states.  With the push for uniformity through state-by-state adoption soon to enter its fifth year, pari-mutuel horse racing can ill afford to wait any longer.

Moreover, as a living document, any changes to the NUMP promise even more discord among the states as each pursues its own unique rule-making procedures. The sport, its participants and its fans all deserve better.

It's not as if adopting two out of four pillars makes a state 50% good.  Like the legs on a table, each pillar of NUMP relies on the others to make it effective on the whole.

The least adopted pillar is the uniform enforcement and penalty rules. Which leads to the question: What good is a doping program if a cheater is not worried about getting punished?

Finally, the USTA's perspective on the use of Lasix should be addressed.

The burden of proof on this issue lies squarely on opponents of the Horseracing Integrity Act, not with supporters.  This bill simply brings the U.S. into conformity with the rest of the world where use of the medication on race days is prohibited. That includes the elite international Standardbred events in France, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand, to name a few countries, as well as in this country's top trotting race, the Hambletonian.

The Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity acknowledges that the “Stronach Amendment” to the bill (which requires the elimination of race day Lasix) was added due to support from within the Thoroughbred industry. To the extent that there are differences of circumstance within the harness racing industry which may call for a varied approach to Lasix, the coalition would be pleased to address those differences with the USTA's representatives.

Barring such discussions, until and unless those questions are answered, this provision should be addressed by the anti-doping experts of the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority (HAMCA).

For now, the USTA has opted to sit on the sidelines. The organization and its members have missed a chance to be part of the process to make the horse racing anti-doping system in this country much better.

Independent, uniform anti-doping programs work and they have shown to increase consumer confidence in a sport.

Horse racing needs to increase consumer confidence and the image of our sport if it is to grow and prosper. I am sure our colleagues in the Standardbred industry would agree.

The Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2017 is the vehicle to get us there.

Shawn Smeallie is the executive director of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, a diverse group of horse racing and animal welfare organizations pursuing the adoption of a national, uniform standard for drugs and medication in horse racing through federal legislation.

  • Peter Scarnati

    Mr. Smeallie may well be an honest, well-intentioned individual of impeccable integrity. However, I find it interesting that the Paulick Report omitted the following bio information about Mr. Smeallie from this story, which was included in Mr. Smeallie’s July 7 opinion piece on the Paulick Report: “…He has extensive experience on Capitol Hill, the Executive Branch, and in the private sector and has worked on defense, trade, energy, tax, and environmental issues over the course of his 20 years in Washington, D.C….”
    It would be for good reason to omit Mr. Smeallie’s two decade’s worth of experience in D.C. After all, in my opinion, and in the opinion of likely many, many others, I hardly find someone’s D.C. experience as a resume enhancement. In fact, I am most leery of this type of experience. We all know D.C. is completely out of touch with mainstream America. Why would this fact be any different when it comes to the racing industry?
    I also find it most distressing Mr. Smeallie chooses to mock the USTA, using terms such as “faulty arguments” and “a clear lack of understanding,” in explaining the USTA’s thought process on its choice to not support the Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2017. More and more these days, this marginalizing of an opponents heart-felt reasoning has become a classic tactic of D.C. insiders.
    I, for one, tend to believe the USTA knows and understands a whole lot more about the Standardbred industry than does Mr. Smeallie.

    • Manefan

      I agree with you that a mocking tone, especially at this level, doesn’t build confidence in the leadership of an organization.
      I’m not familiar with Mr. Smeallie and I may not like his past career associations. I’m not famliar with anyone from USTA either and I haven’t sat at the table of any of the discussions these two groups have had. But, my take-away sentence from the commentary is “If the industry had uniformity, there would be no…need for HR2651.” With the contentious parties involved, I can almost hear that spaghetti western music in the background. Here’s hoping for smooth, positive change.

      • Craig Brogden

        This is an advertising site. Stop reading the paid commercials.

    • Eric Davidson

      Sadly the Paulick Report has faced lackluster reporting over the last few weeks and I think that trend will only continue.

    • Horse pucky. You are absurd.

  • Richard C

    It is going to take a concerted effort from those who truly want reform to push into irrelevance the ridiculous provincialism that makes the sport an alphabet soup of buffoonery.

  • Bill Casner

    Compete denial of an ever increasing sophistication and use of PED’s (performance enhancing drugs) in racing.
    There are 37 racing jurisdictions that are underfunded, under-talented, and under committed.
    These jurisdictions can’t even agree on uniformity, a basic no-brainer.
    There is no “out of competition testing” nor mandate for basic video survailence that is ubiquitous in this current world.
    The commitment, talent, and resources to deal with this insidious use of PED’s can only be achieved by a central authority that has demonstrated it ability to pursue and catch the cheaters.

  • Frank Miller

    Ah, yes, the “anti-doping experts.” LOL!! Does he mean “losers” (a Trump-sanctioned term) like Barry Irwin, Jeff Gural and Andrew Cohen? Cohen actually got horsemen’s groups to give $50K to investigate and outlaw a substance called ITPP. Never found. Never used. Never recognized. Bottom line………when you read self-interested stupidity such as spewed by Smealie or Casner you should proceed with caution. I know as much about harness racing as Smealie and I know nothing about harness racing. All this hoopla about the bogeyman is meant solely to keep guys in a job that otherwise wouldn’t have a job.

    • Kevin Callinan

      ITPP is an effective med that impacts performance like blood-doping. The ability to purchase it online concerns all jurisdictions. You seem quick to critique people that are trying to protect the sport – a self-interest we all have.

      • DelMarPoly

        Nice try, Kevin. Stop the hysteria. Cite one singular instance in ANY racing breed where ITPP was found, purchased, abused, ordered, delivered, received, administered, reported, etc., etc., etc. More than anything the sport needs protection from judgmental people like Cohen, Irwin, Gural, Casner, and Smealie who think they know whats best for us all. Feigned righteousness about race day medications on the one hand, and using Lasix right along on the other. Stop the nonsense. I have yet to see a sufficient leader for the industry although Ritvo might be the closest. The rest have you fooled, Kevin.

        • Kevin Callinan

          by Paulick Report Staff | 10.25.2011 | 7:24am

          Racing authorities in Australia have sent a positive post-race sample off to Hong Kong for further testing after arsenic was discovered in the sample. Arsenic is a component of ITPP, a performance-enhancing drug developed in France. Stewards said Australia’s racing forensic lab is collaborating internationally:

          “The possible use in Australia of ITPP, a drug believed to be rife in the North American harness-racing industry, emerged last month when NSW stewards declared that the Australian Racing Forensic Laboratory has been collaborating with like-minded experts both locally and overseas to develop a test that will identify

          • DelMarPoly

            You’re a joke, Kevin. Arsenic??? We were using arsenic 50 years ago to spur appetite. Your citation speaks of “the possible use of ITPP.” It speaks of “further testing.” Was the presence of ITPP confirmed as a result of the further testing?

            Your response is a perfect example of how the Cohens and Casners of the world are destroying this wonderful game. Take a kernel of information, profess to be an expert, declare it to be evil, scream at the top of your lungs and repeat. Thank you for the amazingly succinct display of how the “bogeyman hunters” are ruining this game.

          • Kevin Callinan

            I’m not sure what your condescending dialogue hopes to achieve. ITPP has arsenic in it- read.
            Lance Armstrong was the face of cycling for a decade until a test was developed that ruined the empire he had built. Racing runs the same risk if we ignore the obvious signs.

          • DelMarPoly

            Again we see the dancing around the bush with the sneaky nomenclature…”obvious signs???” Right. You, Irwin, Cohen and Smealie are convinced you know the obvious signs. Please enlighten us. I asked if there was ever a positive finding from a lab and you tell me there is arsenic somewhere out there. And if Lance Armstrong did it, then every horse trainer must be doing it. Or… “we know it exists because we can’t find it.” Is that the logic? Typical bogeyman hunter. And to answer Condor, he is spot on. In fact, they did test some and found there was no ITPP in it!! You would have to feed a horse more than 3 pounds a day to have any effect. Thanks to Condor and shame on the “Bogeyman Hunters.”

          • Kevin Callinan

            I guess you think the guys that Gural’s security caught juicing on the turnpike on the way to the Meadowlands are imaginary? I don’t think every trainer is cheating- many have integrity. You may need to look that word up.

          • DelMarPoly

            Are we talking withdrawal times or the Magic Sauce? Yes, that trainer was caught on the turnpike with some dexamethasone. Is that the ominous “cheating” we should be worried about destroying this game? Logically, it can’t be because the major premise used by the “bogeyman hunters” like Irwin, Cohen, Casner and Smealie is that “we don’t know what it is because we can’t find it.” Why don’t you ask your local logician what he or she thinks of that statement. You’re on the wrong side of the fence, kid. That much is clear.

          • Kevin Callinan

            You keep repeating yourself when you’re exposed- and yes I am on the side of the fence that wants ALL cheaters out of the game.

          • DelMarPoly

            Oh, heavens, no!! You’re on the side of the fence that allows know-nothing bigmouths to SELF-ANOINT themselves as judge, jury and executioner. I’ve asked you a couple of simple questions and what I got in response was Lance Armstrong and the Jersey Turnpike. By every objective standard, you are not qualified to save this business. But, the good news is that you ARE as qualified as Irwin, Cohen, Casner, Gural, Finley, and Smealie. Congrats, kid!!

          • Kevin Callinan

            glad to be a part of that group

          • This is a classic of the genre. Thanks for the entertainment value TROLL.

          • DelMarPoly

            “I’m no puppet, you’re the puppet!” – your spiritual leader, Donald Trump.

            The sooner you go away, Barry, the better chance we have to right this ship. You actually have some good ideas regarding increased surveillance, and more security in the field. But you lost any credibility you might have had decades ago when you decided to marinate every one of your opinions in this shroud of cheating. The ultimate was you asked to be the leader of this “movement” (as in bowel movement), on the one hand, and yet kept those rats filled to gills on Lasix, on the other. Nice touch, wouldn’t you say?? Phony clown.

            And before you rush to any judgment on me, I’ve been licensed in this game far longer than you have. We did a little bit of business together about 30 years ago when you were out here. But then one of us had to get out of Dodge. Like I said, you left California and now you need to leave the game so people who know can try to save this game.

          • I must be doing something right and hitting at least a few of the right notes to get your dander up and cause you to spew such venom. You have no credibility because like all of the wimps you hide behind a phony screen name. Every knock is a boost from a character like you.

          • DelMarPoly

            No, Barry, as usual you’ve got it all wrong. You INSIST on having your name all over the place because thats what attention-starved “bogeyman hunters” require. You will say whatever it takes no matter how outrageous in order to get a favorable response. Its not about me, big boy, but it is about all the B.S. you sell in a fragile attempt to stay relevant.

        • billy

          Why hate on bill casner….that man lives the words he speaks

  • David Burris

    The USTA understands the bill. According to the USTA web site they object based on the following:
    “Two of the primary objections to the proposed legislation are the elimination of race-day medications, specifically furosemide (Lasix), and the lack of separate, uniform regulations governing the use of therapeutic medications for the different breeds”.

  • Charlie

    What isn’t being discussed is why the USTA does not want to eliminate race day medication. Standardbreds race much more often than thoroughbreds sometimes weekly. It is not uncommon for a standardbred to have 30 starts a year whereas there are some thoroughbreds that don’t race 30 times in their lives. That’s quite a bit of respiratory stress for Standardbreds and often not enough recovery time hence Lasix.

  • Condor

    The USTA is out of its depth but doesnt want to admit it

  • Hello, I’m a lobbyist hit-man wanting more federal regulation and I’m here to help you? And, as a typical politician Smeallie writes his distain for people who don’t support his narrative. Does Smeallie state who he’s taking money from? Why doesn’t Smeallie speak of specific examples instead of glittering generalities?

    Several USTA member harness racing tracks are setting an example for strict rules and penalties for cheating. The one man with the wherewithal, brand spherical objects, and desire to change things is Jeff Gural – from harness racing’s The Meadowlands (NJ). Also, note the detention process at harness racings The Meadows (PA) that is strict and enforced.

    The medication needs of harness racings athletes, which perform weekly, are different from Thoroughbreds in the sense T-breds race might once per month. So perhaps a bifurcated medication policy is required for the health and well-being of the breeds. And good for the USTA to stand-up for its constituents.

    Thoroughbred racing may better address the problem too. With the increased takeouts, ala’ Keeneland, why not take that money and more completely fund laboratory and testing services? But, maybe Thoroughbred racing doesn’t really want to know who’s taking an edge – and instead The Jockey Club seems to focus on a desire to eliminate a legal anti-bleeding medication.

    And speaking of WADA regulations, the Russians beat that centralized regulatory system. Check out the documentary on Netflix called “Icarus.”

  • It’s a toss up whether the Standard-bred industry or the Quarter Horse game is more infiltrated with cheaters. These groups both need national oversight unless they want to continue to be marginalized as they have been in recent years. I really like harness racing, covered the sport, gone to the races many times, visited the Hall of Fame a few times, etc. But what has come to characterize the game has been the cheating. If they want to just ride out their life span in obscurity, then they should just continue on the same path they have been on. But if they want to survive and thrive, they need to get behind this legislation. One Jeff Gural is not enough to save this game. They need more help than he can provide.

    • Jeff Spicolli

      Mr Irwin…to single out Quarter horse and Standardbred racing without also including thoroughbreds is looking at it with rose colored glasses! To put it mildly…

      • Always Curious

        Barry Irwin has been speaking out about drugs in TBs on here for years. Good to see him calling these folks out. We don’t talk about these other breeds as much on here at PR. I was totally shocked when the #1 QH trainer found cheating big time w med. violation. I do not follow them at all.

        • Rob Werstler

          then keep your opinion to yourself. You really think the top TB trainers are winning at those high percentages on water, oats and hay?! Wasn’t it a TB trainer admitting to using steroids on his Kentucky Derby winner on national television that gave the racing industry the big black eye and a congressional oversight committee hearing?

          • Stuart H

            That was when steroids were not against the rules. And he was not the only one…Curlin was on them and many, many others. The funny thing is that they were prevalent back in the 70s and 80s and no one said anything…the general public (in polls I have read) think the jockeys and trainers cheat by stiffing the ride or not racing to win. And in the past when there have been big busts for cheating that has been what it is for. Now we have medications to worry about (and milkshakes, cobra venom, and blood doping), and its a good thing. It was out of control IMO. I am not a big fan of running on Lasix either, but that is not going to change here. But turning stuff over to Congress or lobbyists should give anyone pause.

  • lastromantribune

    harness racing was the cutting edge of doping for years and years.

    • What makes you think that has changed?

    • Lehane

      It was the same in Australia.

  • Gural has been a longtime supporter of the legislation.

    • Thanks. Any racing jurisdiction that has NOT implemented out-of-competition testing, or randomized periodic training center surveillance is doing a disservice to the horse and the industry. Ohio, which hosted The Little Brown Jug yesterday, does not have such policy. It could be argued that the reduced “Jug” entries reflect, in part, horse person concern for a level playing field. Most notably amplified by a comment from trainer Ray Schnittker.

      • How about last year’s fiasco at The Jug? Hard to top!

        • DelMarPoly

          This is beautiful. Please tell us what happened, as you understand it? Please. This will be a perfect example of how a bogeyman hunter who has no idea what he’s talking about tries to make it into something ultra-sinister. Go ahead, big boy, tell us what happened.

        • Yes, and we Thoroughbred people have our own sore points…PETA video, Life At Ten, Holy Bull runs out as beaten fav in Derby and not tested, and so on. You know, you’ve been around a long time.

          • None of these things can hold a candle to last year’s Jug meeting.

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