Editor's note: The following was submitted by Ed Martin, president and CEO of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI), in response to a commentary by former regulator Joe Gorajec concerning a decision made last month by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) to withdraw its membership in the RCI.
I think it helpful to address two issues raised by Mr. Gorajec recently. First, the motivation behind the advisory on using formaldehyde was intended to put anyone thinking of doing that on notice that the commissions know and anyone using that will be dealt with. The only people it is intended to scare are those who would use it. Period.
We have not yet had this problem and hopefully we won't, regardless of what the Lasix policy is. Public advisories are used to send a message to those thinking of doing something they shouldn't. Investigative intelligence from Mr. Gorajec's home state of Indiana triggered the request that we put something out. Deterrence is a wonderful thing especially when your main message and motivation is “don't even think of it.”
As far as California withdrawing its membership with the Association of Racing Commissioners International is concerned, the following are the remarks I prepared for last month's California Horse Racing Board meeting:
“Chairman Winner, Members of the Board. Thank you for the opportunity to speak before you.
“The first I heard about this agenda item was from a reporter's call asking about the CHRB leaving the RCI due to an unintended result of a bylaws change and differences over medication policy, specifically citing our defense of the current model rule concerning Lasix.
“As far as the bylaws change is concerned, Mr. Baedeker (executive director of the CHRB) and I discussed this and I assured him that it would be rectified at the next meeting. In shifting from handle to live race day regulation as the basis for automatic board representation, the issue of counting horse racing days and greyhound days was not raised by anyone — not Mr. Baedeker nor any other Board member or staff. So, when members reported their live racing days, those few jurisdictions that still regulate greyhound racing reported those days as well.
“Staff was constrained by the wording contained in the bylaws and that is how Florida jumped ahead of California and West Virginia jumped ahead of New Jersey.
“We agreed that it was clearly an unintended consequence that I assured him would be revisited and rectified. The RCI board will meet next in August and amendment options affecting board composition will be considered and I assume passed.
“In any event, the CHRB has been represented on the RCI Board for as long as it has been a member, often by an executive director and sometimes by a chair or commission member. Nothing has changed.
“Anyone who has attended an RCI meeting or participated at a board or Model Rules meeting can attest that the organization's overwhelming focus is on matters pertaining to horse racing.
“Now I am going to take issue with something said to you in your Board packet: 'RCI leadership disagrees that racing has a medication problem.'
“That is nonsense. The RCI Model Rules pertaining to medication were enacted upon recommendations of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and were developed with significant input from the CHRB through the involvement of Dr. Arthur and Dr. Stanley on both the pertinent committees of the RMTC and the RCI. I cannot think of an existing medication model rule that the CHRB objected to, or offered an alternative for, when it came through the RCI.
“Just as the CHRB has demonstrated a willingness to revisit policies as demonstrated by the changes you have recently made here in California, so has the RCI. We eagerly await the results of the upcoming meeting of the RMTC Scientific Advisory Committee which we anticipate will come forward with revised policy recommendations affecting NSAIDs and perhaps other medications.
“For more than 15 years, the RCI Model Medication Rules have been based upon recommendations vetted at the RMTC. It is only recently, when the CHRB approved changes affecting clenbuterol in Quarter Horse races and the American Quarter Horse Association requested that we adopt the California policy as a Model Rule, that we departed from exclusive reliance on the RMTC.
“The RCI, like our members, will accept recommendations on policy changes from anyone, although special emphasis is placed on recommendations from member regulatory agencies, the RMTC, and major industry organizations like the breed registries. Those usually start a process of review.
“Our regulatory members, no one else, determine what the policy is to be. The adopted Model Rules are the collaborative work product of the regulators involved. My role is to manage that process and advocate for the policies adopted in the Model Rules. If the CHRB has a policy you think should be a Model or adopted by everyone, submit it and start that ball rolling.
“In the Board packet, Lasix was mentioned. That is our current Model Rule. In 2011, upon requests from two regulatory agencies, we revisited the policy. At the end of that review and hearing testimony from the experts, the members voted to not change the policy. In short, because it helped the horse, was not tied to any adverse affects risking injury, had become ubiquitous meaning that concerns about it giving one horse an advantage over another were moot.
“With the policy change you have adopted and requests to other commissions from some racetracks seeking a policy change, the matter is again being revisited – currently on a commission by commission basis.
“The RCI memo on this matter to the commissions did not take a position on the merits of these applications, but did note that the CHRB action was based on a consensus request from the Stronach group and key constituencies in this state. Obviously a consensus approach as was achieved here in California is the most time effective way to approach a government agency and avoid potential litigation down the road.
“The RCI does not have a political agenda. We strive to do what is right, by the horse, by the public, by the sport. We often get it right and sometimes we don't. When we don't we have reopened issues and made changes, just as each and every one of our members do.
“I can tell you that your colleagues are watching with great interest the changes you have made in California with the sincere hope that they are effective in reducing breakdowns. Our existing Model Rules have helped, but not solved the problem. All of us must do better and that is what the CHRB – as well as your colleagues – are all focused on.
“Does racing have a medication problem? To the extent that legal therapeutic substances are being misused, overused, or used to run horses that should not be getting into the starting date the answer is yes. There is no argument on that score.
“But, it is important to be honest about this sport and what our testing finds or does not find. Out of the 20,580 samples California sent to the Maddy lab last year, 99.5% came back with no adverse analytical finding. According to information you provided us, your regulatory violations were 109, mostly for class 4 substances, some of which can mask pain. These numbers are contrary to some of the claims that have been made by some who say every horse is running with pain masked. You are too good to ever permit that.
“Nobody denies the problem, if we did we wouldn't spend as much time as we do on it. Your testing numbers and the testing numbers of your colleagues, however, put it in context.
“I prefer to characterize the problem racing faces as an equine suitability issue. The medication reforms, the pre-race exams, and other reforms of recent years as well as the new initiatives you have just announced have and will help.
“The RCI has raised the fact that a significant portion of the race horse industry is not regulated. This needs to be addressed, specifically the breeding industry, treatments and procedures done to young horses that may warrant greater scrutiny or control and certainly disclosure to the regulatory vet when the horse shows up at the track.
“There is a need to track vet records from the get-go. There is a need for out-of-competition suitability assessments to identify 'at risk' horses that maybe should not be allowed to race, and there is a need for the breed registries – as guardians of the breeds – to take a greater role in the regulation of breeding and in the monitoring of how these horses are cared for before they come under the jurisdiction of a government agency.
“Nobody is going to agree 100% of the time. But it is no reason to end a marriage. Especially where there is more common ground than not.
“We are not perfect. Nobody is. God knows I'm not. I know for myself, there are things I should have done differently, or expressed with different words. Hindsight is always 20/20.
“While I am here today in the hope that you will table any action to disassociate yourself form your colleagues, I felt compelled to appear in person to correct the claim that we deny the problems we all face. Rather than leave the RCI, I personally would prefer the CHRB take a greater role perhaps with the direct involvement of your chair or a commissioner in addition to Mr. Baedeker. But we will respect whatever path you choose as it is your decision.
“Let me close by saying this: The problems you have in California are not California problems and what happens in California affects everyone, just as what happens in other jurisdictions will affect you.
“While your board packet indicated you could still avail yourself of the RCI Model Rules when appropriate, I do not understand why you would not want to impact on what those rules are and how they are communicated.
“I was the executive director in New York for the years New York's regulatory agency was not a member of the RCI. In hindsight, that was a mistake and while the temptation is very real to sort through these issues unilaterally, many hours were spent talking through things that were not unique to New York, searching for answers that others may have already thought about or implemented. In a sport where the constituencies seek some degree of uniformity, pulling away from that collaborative process runs counter to what our constituents seek.”
CORRECTION: A reference to the number of drug test samples that came back clean should have stated: Out of the 20,580 samples California sent to the Maddy lab last year, 99.5% came back with no adverse analytical finding.
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