The indictments and arrests this week of trainers, veterinarians and others on charges of operating a massive, multi-state horse racing doping network deliberately designed to avert detection from racing, veterinary, and pharmacology regulatory agencies as well as federal authorities is not a negative for the racing industry, but testimony to the fact that the system can and does work when all these agencies cooperate.
The Department of Justice, particularly the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, must be commended for leading this effort, which involved multiple law enforcement agencies assisted by state racing regulators to varying degrees.
The severity of the allegations should come as no surprise. Illegal drug manufacturing and distribution, falsified veterinary records and prescriptions, fraudulent labeling, and illegal doping of horses have all been openly discussed at ARCI meetings in recent years as racing commissions moved to actively involve other enforcement entities and police agencies in efforts to utilize the full gamut of government authority to combat what we all knew was transpiring.
Proving it is another story. And that takes time, dedication, resources, and the resolve to use every tool available to a law enforcement or regulatory body. If you read the indictments you will see the tremendous value court ordered wiretaps were in making these case.
For racing, these arrests are on par with the taking down of Lance Armstrong or the BALCO operation. This is huge. And nobody needed a federal bill to make it happen as the rules and the law already make this activity illegal and the agencies that developed and made these cases already exist.
The hard part sometimes for a racing commission is getting a law enforcement agency to get involved with a case they are working on. That's why in my 2018 testimony to Congress the ARCI called for a dedicated unit in key federal agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the Food and Drug Administration and the US Customs Department – to handle and investigate racing related matters.
That call was ignored by those writing and proposing so-called racing integrity bills, yet it did not stop individual racing commissions from strengthening ties with state and federal enforcement agencies with broader jurisdiction and greater tools to pursue racing related issues.
Just as Lance Armstrong must have felt comfortable knowing he had beat the internationally accredited USADA/WADA labs 300 times, those arrested this week must have felt the same way knowing their use of EPO in racehorses was not being detected in our accredited labs. Dr. George Maylin of New York has warned us about the limits of worldwide racing related EPO testing for several years. But there are different ways to approach these challenges.
The New York Gaming Commission demonstrated in the Lou Pena harness racing case that you don't need a drug test to prove a doping violation. These federal indictments are another signal that just because someone may get one past the lab, it doesn't mean they won't eventually get caught.
These arrests are good for racing as they can have a cleansing effect. But rodents usually come back and we can never let down our collective guard. As far as we are concerned, these efforts are ongoing and can never stop and the more everyone works together, the better the sport will be.
Ed Martin is president and CEO of the Association of Racing Commissioners International
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