July 2014 Issue - page 4

Page 4
July 2014
PENNSYLVANIA EQUESTRIAN
(Continued on page 22)
by Terry Conway
Tick, Tick, Tick. It could be
the sound of the countdown for
the Feds jumping into medication
oversight and tough enforcement.
But in the run up to the
Belmont Stakes, that sound was
actually the scathing "60 Minutes
Sports" segment that aired on the
Showtime network on the perva-
sive drug problems in Thorough-
bred racing.
Travis Tygart—the man who
dropped the hammer on profes-
sional cyclist Lance Armstrong—
stated the use of performance
enhancing drugs in American
horse racing has reached a critical
point. Tygart heads the U.S.
Anti-Doping Agency (USADA),
which has been approached by
both Congress and the racing in-
dustry to clean up the sport. Will
he take action?
“I think it’s down to the
wire,” remarked Tygart.
Congressman Joe Pitts of
Pennsylvania is a co-author of a
bill to restore integrity and safety
to horse racing. Pitts introduced
the bill last spring, and since
then, it has been in committee
awaiting a chance to be voted on
by the full House.
"It's an industry that has, for
years, pledged to clean things
up," said Rep. Pitts, who spon-
sored the Horseracing Integrity
and Safety Act. "But things seem
to be getting worse, not better."
Tygart says if the bill is
passed, the agency will be ready
to regulate drug use in racing
and enforce penalties. He point-
ed to the World Anti-Doping
Agency that turned around the
U.S. Olympic Team program
14 years ago. They created a
uniform code in an open and
transparent process. Today, it's
been adopted by 520 sporting
organizations and 172 govern-
ments.
“I think if you listen to the
industry, the drug problem has
got to be a 10 (on a scale of 1 to
10)," Tygart added. "Many wor-
ry it’s undermining the sport’s
image, harming the breeding
process and putting riders and
horses at risk. There is tre-
mendous pressure to use drugs
to win in a multi-billion dollar
business in which there is no
national uniform code to control
drug use nor a governing body
or commissioner to rein it in.
The temptations are through the
roof in this sport.”
In the Showtime segment,
reporter Armen Keteyian also
spoke with Phillip Hanrahan
who heads the 29,000-member
National Horseman’s Benevolent
and Protective Association. He
steadfastly claimed there isn’t
a drug problem in his industry,
pointing to 368,980 drug tests
taken between 2009 and 2012 in
which 99.2 percent of the horses
passed.
"The industry does a good
job of policing itself," Hanrahan
declared. "Could it be improved?
Sure. But it’s not the Wild, Wild
West picture that some would
have you believe.”
Thirty-eight states operate
horse racing tracks and work
under 38 distinct sets of rules.
The National Thorough-
bred Racing Association has
adopted a set of uniform rules
and is pushing state legislatures,
racing commissions and other
regulatory bodies to pass them in
the individual states. So far, 19
states have passed or are consid-
ering a rule that would remove
all controlled substances except
for Lasix — a diuretic known
to improve horses' performance
— from racing, and standard-
ize testing for the other drugs.
Eight states have passed another
rule that standardizes a penalty
structure for trainers who violate
drug rules.
"The lack of uniformity and
strict enforcement has created
huge loopholes, where, if you're
playing by the rules, you're at
a competitive disadvantage,"
Tygart said.
Thoroughbred owner Bill
Casner has been outspoken in the
drive to curb the use of race day
drugs.
“Our racing industry thrived
in a time prior to permitted race
day medications," Casner said.
"Horses raced often and consis-
tently. We are a global industry
and we are out of step with the
rest of the world. Race day med-
ications are a failed experiment
and it is time for us to do what
is right for our horses and our
industry.”
Comprehensive
Changes Coming
A typical morning at a U.
S. racetrack will find packs of
veterinarians driving around the
backside with a truck stuffed with
a plethora of "legal medications"
with little regulation or oversight.
It's a backside culture that has
dubious benefit to a horse and
runs up a vet bill. Some of the
medications have led to countless
injuries, ailments and gruesome
breakdowns as well as sudden
equine death syndrome.
So what's the solution? A
large and growing number of
prominent Thoroughbred owners
and trainers have voluntarily
pledged to make available to
the public veterinary records of
their horses competing in graded
stakes races in the United States
and Canada. The records will
create much needed transparency,
covering the 14-day period pre-
ceding and including the day of
each race. They will be available
to the public on the day of the
race at least two hours prior to
post time.
That pledge followed closely
on the heels of a recent proposal
by Ogden Mills Phipps, chairman
of The Jockey Club, suggesting
that the veterinary records for
Travis Tygart, a representative of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency,
speaks up about the temptations to cheat via drug use in the multi-bil-
lion dollar sport of horse racing. He advocates a clear, uniform code
to regulate drug use and enforce penalties.
Discord Over Race Day Medication Reform
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