Gorajec: Barr-Tonko Bill Only Path Toward Uniformity

by | 10.15.2015 | 7:57am

The following commentary was written by Joe Gorajec, who on Saturday was relieved of his job as executive director of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission (IHRC), a position he held for nearly 25 years.

The commentary, which Gorajec intended for publication when written, was shared with Indiana commissioners in August with a clearly stated caveat that it represented his personal viewpoint, and not that of the IHRC or its individual members. 

Gorajec was advised, in no uncertain terms, that he was not to have the article published.

Having been the executive director of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission since 1990, I have been on the frontline of regulatory policy and enforcement, both in Indiana and nationally, for the past 25 years.

During this time I have seen substantial efforts – with mixed results – to improve uniformity in drug testing and penalties for positive tests. I have also witnessed a largely inadequate, milquetoast response to emerging threats to racing's integrity. Most significant among these threats are blood-doping agents and other drugs that require an extensive out-of-competition program for detection.

I believe the threat to the integrity of our sport is greater now than it was 25 years ago.

We are in this predicament because we lack central governance for drug testing and penalties for violations, which, of course, all other major sports have.

We have been promised and have held out hope that uniformity was achievable and just around the corner. It is not achievable, nor is it around the corner, so you can stop waiting. Uniformity under our current regulatory structure is a mirage.

Lack of uniformity does not equate to lack of effort. In a nutshell, uniformity is incompatible with the current structure of individual state prerogatives. Try as we might, we cannot and will not get to our desired level of uniformity with our existing regulatory structure. Once we acknowledge this, it will be much easier to choose a new path leading to true national uniformity.

It should be noted that state regulators (i.e. Commissions) did not create the current model. They inherited it. This occurred decades ago when state legislatures bequeathed to racing commissions the authority and responsibility for equine drug testing.

This lack of uniformity has always been an issue, but emerging threats have made us much more susceptible to the designs of those who cheat. While these threats have increased, racing has become more globalized and the internet has rapidly spread all the shortcomings of our sport into consciousness of our dwindling fan base – and potential new fans.

I was born in Chicopee, Mass., in 1958. In that year, the four major Thoroughbred New England race tracks – Rockingham Park, Suffolk Downs, Narragansett Park and Lincoln Downs – drew 2,680,412 fans to the track. By comparison, that same year, the combined attendance for the Boston Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics was 2,168,412.

All these tracks are nothing but memories, except for Suffolk, which is scheduled to race three days this year. The reasons for the decline of Thoroughbred racing are many. I believe most people will agree that the foundation upon which we must build our sport moving forward is integrity. Our current structure of state prerogatives as it relates to drug testing and penalties has failed to provide this foundation.

For these reasons, I support the Barr-Tonko bill. It places the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) in a position to do virtually overnight what the racing industry has been incapable of doing over decades – mandate uniformity in drug testing, procedures and penalties. (Aug. 24, 2015)

Joe Gorajec served as executive director of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission and past chairman of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI). The opinions herein are solely the opinions of the author and do not represent the opinions of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission.

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