Congressional hearing: witness list a stacked deck

by | 04.24.2012 | 7:56pm
George Strawbridge, Jr.

Six of the nine witnesses invited to speak at Monday's hearing of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health have signed a letter supporting federal legislation to ban race-day medication in horses, and one of the remaining three has written a book that charges widespread cheating in horse racing through the use of drugs. It is a stacked deck in favor of having Congress establish national uniform rules that do not permit race-day medication and set tougher penalties for rules violators than currently exist.

The hearing will begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday at Unionville High School in Kennett Square, Pa. It is in the home district of Rep. Joe Pitts, chairman of the subcommittee and a co-sponsor of the Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act that Kentucky Rep. Ed Whitfield sponsored. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico has sponsored a similar bill in the U.S. The Interstate Horseracing Improvement, filed just before the 2011 Kentucky Derby, would ban the presence of any performance-enhancing drugs in racehorses on the day they race.

Following are the witnesses scheduled to appear in two separate panels:

Panel 1

Mr. Gary Stevens
Retired Jockey
Jockey Hall of Fame
Sierra Madre, CA

Mr. Arthur B. Hancock, III
Thoroughbred Owner
Paris, KY

Mrs. Gretchen Jackson
Thoroughbred Owner
West Grove, PA

Mr. George W. Strawbridge, Jr.
Thoroughbred Owner
Wilmington, DE

Panel 2

Mr. Glenn Thompson
Trainer
Colts Neck, NJ

Mr. Kenny McPeek
Trainer
Lexington, KY

Dr. Kathryn Papp, DVM
Hillcrest Meadow Equine Services, LLC
Harrisburg, PA

Mr. Gregory L. Ferraro
Professor and Director
Center for Equine Health
University of California School of Veterinary Medicine
Davis, CA

Dr. Cornelius E. Uboh, Ph.D.
PA Equine Toxicology and Research Center
Department of Chemistry
West Chester University

Stevens, Jackson (and her husband, Roy), Hancock (and his wife, Staci), Strawbridge, McPeek, and Ferraro all have signed a letter of support for the Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act. The Jacksons, Hancocks, and Strawbridge were the first supporters of the bill, and they now have a list of 415 individuals who also have signed on.

That list of supporters includes such names as multiple Eclipse Award-winning owner and breeder and racetrack owner Frank Stronach; Hall of Fame trainers Neil Drysdale, Jonathan Sheppard, and newly elected Roger Attfield; numerous owners, including Barry Irwin, whose Team Valor captured the 2011 Kentucky Derby with Animal Kingdom, and Dogwood Stable's Cot Campbell, recipient of the 2011 Eclipse Award of Merit; a large group of breeders, among them B. Wayne Hughes of Spendthrift Farm, Case and Robert Clay of Three Chimneys, and Fred and Joseph Seitz of Brookdale Farm; and veterinarians, bloodstock agents, and consignors, including Coolmore adviser Dr. Demi O'Byrne.

Thompson, who will appear during the second panel on Monday, is the author of a book, “The Tradition of Cheating at the Sport of Kings,” that alleges without naming names the illegal and widespread use of performance enhancing drugs by veterinarians and trainers.

The support of federal legislation will likely be music to the ears of many subcommittee members, some of whom participated in a June 2008 hearing in Washington, D.C., in the aftermath of a Kentucky Derby, where the winner, Big Brown, raced on then-legal anabolic steroids, and the runner-up, Eight Belles, fractured both front legs after the finish and was euthanized.

“Horseracing is a $40 billion industry that generates roughly 400,000 domestic jobs nationwide,” the subcommittee's hearing notice reads. “Many question whether the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs on race day is threatening the viability, safety and integrity of the sport, and especially if it is a threat to the safety and well being of the jockeys.

“In 2008, the Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on the issue of performance enhancing drugs in horseracing and received assurances that the industry was implementing reforms to protect horses and jockeys. On April 30, members will review what reforms, if any, have been made in the horseracing industry to protect jockeys, horses, and the integrity of the sport.”

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