WHOA: Recent Horse Racing Reform Proposals A ‘Band-Aid On A Shotgun Wound’

by | 04.29.2019 | 12:15pm

Over the last few weeks, industry groups have come forward with a myriad of suggestions for drug reform.  While plans by Mid-Atlantic groups, Maryland Breeders, the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI), and the newly formed Racetrack Coalition sound promising, they are like putting a Band-Aid on a shotgun wound.  These ideas do not provide a solution to horse racing's national drug problem. The Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019 does!

Horsemen's groups, racetrack operators, and racing regulators represented in the Mid-Atlantic region released a statement: 'Mid-Atlantic Racing Industry Adopts Strategic Plan To Reduce Racehorse Fatalities' and the Maryland Breeders released their own statement: 'Maryland Breeders, Horsemen Issue Position Statement On Lasix'.

There is merit in the adoption of the 'Mid-Atlantic Strategic Plan to Reduce Equine Fatalities', but it falls short by only covering six U.S. state racing jurisdictions. What about the other 32?  Where is the national uniformity our sport so desperately needs?

The ARCI released a statement on April 11, entitled 'ARCI Proposes To 'Dramatically Increase' Trainer, Owner Penalties For Doping'.

WHOA Supporter and past Chairman of the Ohio State Racing Commission

(ORC) and the ARCI, William Koester, reminds us that as well meaning as it might seem, the ARCI simply establishes Model Rules for racing as a guideline. There is virtually no enforcement for jurisdictions that refuse to comply. Model Rules can be followed or not with no repercussions from any enforcement entity as we learn in William Koester's Commentary.

So, let's be clear, the ARCI's press release advocating stiffer penalties is all show and little substance. Many state racing commissions do not enforce the current penalty guidelines. Consequently, we should have no reason to believe that they have any appetite to apply stiffer penalties. Some will. Some won't. In other words, we will continue to operate with a total lack of uniformity. 

To better understand the complications associated with the passage of new rules by individual racing commissions, read Natalie Voss's commentary: Fact Checking Opponents Of Safety And Welfare Reform. 

And while most recently, the newly formed coalition comprised of most of America's major racetracks wrote some needed reforms to rules which limit medication use in the Triple Crown races, the reform does not go as far as an overall ban.  The concern remains on how these rules will ever be implemented. 

This partial ban must be approved by regulators in Kentucky, New York, Maryland and other states with racetracks in the coalition.

Why don't these industry groups stop beating around the bush, realize that no industry solution is going to accomplish our goal, and that we need an outside independent agency to set the agenda so that it favors no one group.Other industry groups like the AQHAHBPA and the AAEP out and out oppose the new push for reform and a ban on race-day medication. 

Individual members of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity have stated that the motivation on the part of the entities promoting these new initiatives is one final, last ditch effort to allow certain industry stakeholders to self-regulate themselves. The very reason the legislation was crafted was to bring an independent presence to bear on racing in hopes of ending the current mess of too many different rules in too many racing jurisdictions.

In fact, their motivation to do “something” is to avoid the elephant in the room, which is the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019. This is exactly why an outside presence with an independent mandate is so essential.

1.  A federal appointment that supercedes the 38 individual state racing commissions. 

2.  The creation of one agency equipped with the power, experience and expertise to deal with racing's drug and medication issues, swiftly and professionally.

3.  National uniformity in rules, penalties, testing procedures, and labs across all U.S. racing jurisdictions.

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