Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond has told the US thoroughbred racing industry that trainers who are caught doping “should never be allowed back into the sport”.
LeMond was speaking at the recent 68th Annual Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing, which was held virtually. He was interviewed by James L. Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club, about his experiences with doping culture in cycling, efforts to clean up the sport through improved testing and harsh penalties, and why clean sports are more successful.
“If you want the sport to have legitimacy, people need to know that it’s not fixed,” LeMond said. “A clean sport is good for business.”
LeMond is a vocal opponent of performance-enhancing drug use, and at times his commercial ventures have suffered for his anti-doping stance. He continues to campaign publicly against doping and has testified before the United States Anti- Doping Agency.
Mark Casse supported those sentiments as part of a trainers panel that included John Gosden and Jessica Harrington and featured discussions on the effects of different breeding, racing, and training practices on Thoroughbreds.
“When they find the bad apples, they don’t need to be slapped on the hand. They need to be thrown out and be done with,” Casse said. “We can make all the rules in the world, but if there’s not someone out there policing those rules, the bad guys just get that much stronger.”
Bob Costas, a former sportscaster for NBC Sports and current sportscaster for MLB Network and contributor to CNN, touched on his experiences covering the Triple Crown races for NBC as well as the importance of improving equine safety and maintaining integrity in the sport.
“These magnificent equine athletes deserve to be treated with the care and dignity and respect they deserve. Not just on the days where everybody is watching at the biggest events, but 365 days a year. [Reform] is the right thing to do for that reason,” said Costas.
“[Reform] is also the right thing to do for the most important thing that every sport has going for it: the integrity of the competition. It’s also essential now for the future of the industry because of that level of public perception. Is the public willing to tolerate it? Are they willing to accept it? Can they continue to embrace it without the reforms that are necessary? The answer to that is no.”
Katrina Adams, the immediate past-president of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), provided an overview of the USTA’s efforts to diversify both its players and administration and recommended that industries such as horse racing seek “diversity of thought” in decision-making so that the sport is more welcoming and representative of the USA.
“I think, going forward, we all are learning that we need to be a little more inclusive in our marketing materials, in the discussions that we’re having, and the messages that we’re sending so that when I pick up a magazine, I see myself in your sport,” Adams said.
Sal Sinatra, the president and general manager of the Maryland Jockey Club, spoke of his concerns about the claiming system and recommended that the country consider a rating system similar to what exists in other racing jurisdictions around the world.
“Implementing a ratings system would have a myriad of benefits to American racing,” said Sinatra. “Ratings would group horses of similar abilities, creating a more competitive race and ultimately a more interesting betting option for our fans.
“Owners would be more willing to run their horses and try different options. I believe that protecting the owner’s investment over time would stabilize and actually grow the foal crop.”
Stuart S. Janney III, the chairman of The Jockey Club, presided over the conference. In his closing remarks, he talked about The Jockey Club’s work with 5 Stones intelligence to examine cheating and integrity concerns in horse racing. This investigation included collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which indicted 27 individuals in the horse racing industry in March.
“We have always viewed this investigation as part of a larger picture, which importantly includes the Horseracing Integrity Act,” said Janney. “Without modernizing our current system of regulation, we will slip back into the present unfortunate state.”