Mark Lamberth, a member of the Arkansas Racing Commission and chairman of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, turned the dial on the BS Meter all the way up on Tuesday in a press release on RCI letterhead stating: “Entire Arkansas Horse Racing Industry Opposes Federal Bills.”
Among other things, Lamberth said any initiative to create a national, independent, non-profit, non-governmental agency was a “departure from cooperative efforts that have historically been productive.”
The key phrase here is “cooperative efforts that have historically been productive.”
One such cooperative effort is the Equine Injury Database, created in 2008 by The Jockey Club to identify the frequency, type and outcome of racing injuries, better identify at-risk horses, and serve as an important data source for research to improve safety and prevent injuries.
Arkansas does not participate in the Equine Injury Database. Oaklawn Park is the lone holdout among major U.S. racetracks.
Another cooperative effort is the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance, created in 2009 to deal with a wide range of issues, including medication and drug testing standards, equine injuries, safety equipment for jockeys and others, Thoroughbred aftercare and wagering integrity. Tracks from Florida to New York to California have gone through the accreditation process and are members of the alliance.
Arkansas does not participate in the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. Oaklawn Park is a holdout.
A more recent cooperative effort is the Jockey Injury Database, created by the Jockeys' Guild with support from Keeneland, The Jockey Club and the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. This database is designed to make the sport as safe as possible for those who put their life on the line each time they get aboard a horse to compete.
Arkansas does not participate in the Jockey Injury Database. Lamberth's lip service to “cooperative efforts” is a textbook example of hypocrisy.
There may be a reason Lamberth and his fellow commissioners at the Arkansas Racing Commission don't want someone like the United States Anti-Doping Agency poking around their neighborhood, establishing uniform national rules, setting exemplary drug testing standards and enforcing drug policies in a strict, even-handed manner.
They might not want anyone to know how little the Arkansas Racing Commission spends on drug testing for the annual Thoroughbred race meeting at Oaklawn Park.
The current contract between the commission and Truesdail Laboratories in Irvine, Calif. (yes, the same Truesdail that was fired by the Indiana Horse Racing Commission for failing to detect commonly used drugs and missing a Class 1 drug during an audit of the lab) is for just $90,510 – and that includes $18,000 to test dogs racing at Southland Greyhound Park. One regulatory analyst said this equated to about $55 per horse tested. For comparison's sake, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is said to spend about $160 per test and the California Horse Racing Board about $190 per test.
Are you a horseplayer who wonders whether horses racing at Oaklawn might be milkshaked to improve performance? According to the contract, no more than 100 horses during the entire 2016 Oaklawn Park meet will be tested for total carbon dioxide content (TCO2) or bicarbonate loading.
Are you a horse owner who wants reassurance that the drug testing conducted for Oaklawn Park uses the most modern detection methods possible? According to the contract, fully one-third of the samples will be screened using enzyme-linked immunoassay kits. Those tests may have been cutting edge in the 1980s. Not so today.
Another one-third of the samples are to be screened using one of several other methods, including thin-layer chromatography (TLC). A racing regulator I spoke with called TLC “stone age testing.”
The final third of the Oaklawn Park samples are to be screened utilizing more modern technology – liquid chromatography diode array detection (LC-DDAD) or gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GCMS).
This Arkansas Racing Commission drug testing contract, which one industry analyst calls “pitiful,” is exactly why medication regulation should be taken out of the hands of local political appointees who know nothing about science or cheating in sports and turned over to experts. Arkansas commissioner Lamberth called the move to name USADA in that role a “hostile takeover.”
Maybe that is what's needed.
Lamberth didn't respond to questions about the refusal of Arkansas to take part in “cooperative efforts” like the Equine Injury Database, Jockey Injury Database or NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. He also failed to answer questions about why the Arkansas Racing Commission is so stingy in spending money on drug testing or not insisting on better technology from its drug-testing lab.
So, as far as the Arkansas Racing Commission being a participant in “cooperative efforts that have historically been productive,” I call BS.
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