Fixing America’s Racetracks: Solving the Drug Problem Part 2

Table 1            Yesterday, we saw that not only is now the time to act on this issue, but also that there is substantial backing by leaders in the sport.  Today, it is time to propose a plan that would help solve many of the issues that Ogden Mills Phipps brought up.  We ended part one talking about the AQHA violation system.  Now, let’s try to apply this system to thoroughbred racing.  In order to set guidelines for medication violations, the threshold and list of controlled medications is stated in the Table 1, which is amended from the New York State Gaming Commission amendment from December 3, 2014.  Those listed in italics will be considered Level 3 drugs, with the rest being considered Level 4 drugs (for our purposes, Level 1 will be the highest level and Level 4 will be the lowest level).  Before continuing, let me concede that I am nowhere near an expert in racing medications nor am I in the industry; I am using research as well as my own knowledge of medication rulings in other racing jurisdictions and other sports in order to make my claims for this proposal.  With that being said, let us continue.

The points system would be based off of the threshold of each drug.  The points accumulated would stay on record; however, for every 180 days without a positive drug test of any level, two points are removed from the record; no points can be lost if those 180 days or any fraction thereof were spent suspended.  Table 2 represents the points handed out for horses, trainers, and owners with respect to the level that the drug is listed as.

Table 2

The point values for horses are slightly increased since they are the most affected by the drugs.  Banned substances are given the strictest and receive the most combined points.  Also, besides receiving points for use of a banned substance, the trainer receives a $5,000 fine on top of any other finds as stipulated by the points system.  Trainers and owners may request a retest only within 48 hours of the ruling.  If not a large enough sample exists for a proper retest, then the points are removed and the race track official who collected the sample is fined.  All samples be enough for three tests to be run.  All samples must be preserved for one year from the initial test or six months from the ruling, whichever comes later.  After one retest, no further retests may be requested, but the ruling can be appealed.  During the appeals process, the points remain on the record.

As points are accumulated, penalties are received.  Table 3 lists those penalties by utilizing a points range.

Table 3

These penalties are meant to be used as a deterrent so that trainers and owners don’t use drugs on their horses.  Yes, these are very strict penalties, however strict penalties need to be in place in order to keep the trainers and owners in line.  Of course, any horse found to have been racing while medicated above the legal limit is automatically stripped of its placing in the race and the purse money is redistributed amongst the other horses in the race.  These drug tests would be performed at entry for a race for all horses, after the race for all horses, and if fifty days have passed since the last test, one will be given.  Most of the larger penalties should rarely be reached as a good percentage of trainers only get a few positive drug tests per year, which would only lead to a few points accumulated.  These penalties are actually less strict compared to those of the AQHA.  This gives a little more leeway and allows for an easier transition from the old systems to this.

There a few rules that should also be in place for racetracks.  In order to slowly ease towards drug-free horse racing, racetracks would be mandated to have at least six percent of their races carded as Lasix-free.  Keeneland is in the process of establishing Lasix-free races to be carded throughout their meet.  The Breeders Cup has been in the process of making their races Lasix-free, having started with the races for two-year-olds a few years ago.  Also, at least one stakes race, does not be graded, must be Lasix-free and contain a purse of at least $50,000.  Both of these rules allow for trainers to race horses that are not on Lasix without fear of them being at a disadvantage, although studies show that Lasix gives no actual performance advantage.

Tomorrow, we will conclude this series by talking about the feasibility of this plan.


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