Backing for uniformity across US over medication use in racing

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gb-racing-economic-impactTwo major American racing enterprises have expressed their desire for uniform medication and anti-doping rules across United States racing.

Keeneland and The Stronach Group expressed their desire for uniform policies across the country, but did not specifically refer to the May 31 announcement of legislation proposed by Representative Paul Tonko which would place the issue under federal control.

Tonko’s bill proposes giving oversight to the US Anti-Doping Agency.

Four organizations — The Jockey Club, Breeders’ Cup, Water Hay Oats Alliance, and the Humane Society of the United States — subsequently announced the formation of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, which supports the federal bill.

A uniform medication program has already been adopted in several states, but it is being rolled out on a state by state basis as racing jurisdictions come on board and legislative schedules allow.

Keeneland said medication had been at the forefront of discussions in the racing industry for some time.

It said national uniform rules were needed that included the same list of prohibited and permitted substances and methods in every jurisdiction.

It said uniform testing procedures and protocols, including out-of-competition testing, were needed, as where uniform standards and the accreditation of testing labs.

Keeneland also called for a uniform set of penalties that would be administered in a timely manner, as well as uniform and fair investigations and prosecutions.

“All of these must be performed with appropriate rigor to achieve the goal of a level playing field for all participants and the elimination of performance-enhancing drugs in thoroughbred racing,” it said.

“Significant progress has been made by thoughtful individuals and organizations, but many argue it has not been fast enough and we are losing participants because of that pace.

“Although not currently a member of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, Keeneland is committed to achieving these initiatives vital to the growth and success of our industry, and we urge other race tracks and horsemen to constructively work with the coalition and other industry leaders with a sense of urgency.

“We will achieve uniformity with integrity only through constructive dialogue and coordinated action.

“We appreciate all who are passionately working to advance these guiding principles for all the right reasons and look forward to the continued process to achieve these crucial objectives.”

The Stronach Group said it had recognized and actively promoted significant advances in racing medication with the belief that safety measures and jockey welfare were paramount.

“In view of recent legislative efforts advanced by the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, which is supported by several industry groups, The Stronach Group reaffirms the following list of foundation principles it deems necessary for the continued growth and development of thoroughbred racing on a national and international scale:

  • Mutually agreed upon, uniform testing procedures and protocols at all North American tracks, which include out-of-competition testing.
  • Nationally uniform rules that clearly define prohibited and permitted medications, substances and methods in all jurisdictions.
  • Regional testing laboratories that strictly adhere to uniform standards and which are subject to regular accreditation.
  • Penalties for violations must be uniform and administered in a timely fashion.
  • Investigations and prosecutions must be fair and uniform on a national scale.

Public perception is our highest priority,” it said in its statement. “As such, the aforementioned objectives must be pursued enthusiastically by the entire racing industry in order to maintain a level playing field for our sports’ stakeholders and most importantly, the betting public.”

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Wayne Pacelle

The president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, argued there was a need for reform in the racing industry, which he said had failed to take responsibility for its problems.

Pacelle, writing in his blog, A Humane Nation, cited the reported deaths of 24 horses a week on US racetracks, and said the injury and fatality rate among jockeys was unacceptably high.

Too many retired racehorses were going to slaughter, he said.

Racing, he said, was a national industry, which needed national standards on drug use.

“Leaders within the industry, and lawmakers passionate about the issue, need to come together and find a common set of reforms they can rally around and convince Congress to embrace.”

He said the society joined the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, which wants federal controls, in order to push that discussion forward.

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