Monday, August 13, 2012
DAY 21: Jockey Club’s Reformed Rules Slowly Making Progress
August 12, 2012—“We put a stake in the ground and said clean athletes are going to have a chance to win. A win-at-all-costs culture has taken over the system, and if you stay stagnant, the cheaters will get ahead.”
Such was the testimony of Travis T. Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that used intense investigative and educational initiatives to better protect the rights of Olympic athletes and preserve the integrity of the competition.
“Our experience can be an example for [horse racing] to bring the magic back to the sport,” Tygart said.
Racing’s problem, of course, is that no one has figured how to get the magic out of the sport.
The presentation of the annual Jockey Club Round Table Conference was streamed online from the Gideon-Putnam Hotel here. The agenda centered on the uniformity of rules, drug testing, and research, as well as the aforementioned ideas.
Tygart’s message wasn’t anything anyone in the room hadn’t heard from within but at this time and place there’s a new urgency and while progress predictably will be slow, the sense is that this time progress will be made.
Indeed, one significant change will take place with respect to the administration of clenbuterol. Of course, the medication is approved for use in humans as a bronchodilator to treat asthma and for horses with allergic respiratory diseases.
The problem is that it can be more potent and longer-lasting as a metabolic stimulant and a metabolic stimulator. It increases aerobic capacity and stimulates the central nervous system and oxygen transporter; a poor man’s EPO?
Humans have used clenbuterol as a performance-enhancer and there are many examples in the world of sports. Jessica Hardy, an American swimmer, tested positive in the 2008 U.S. Trials and served a one-year suspension in 2008.
This year, San Francisco Giants pitcher Guillermo Mota received a 100-game suspension after testing positive for the drug a second time. Nick Roberts, a Canadian weightlifter, received a two-year penalty after a urine sample tested positive.
Clenbuterol also has been abused on the backside, although many penalties were incurred when trace elements were detected because the substance had not metabolized during the allotted withdrawal period.
The updated version of the Reformed Racing Medication Rules states that the medication cannot be administered less than 21 days before the scheduled post time for which a horse is entered to race. Previously, the Reformed Rules recommended a 10-day period.
The new set of proposed rules feature a new categorization of medications, more clearly defined regulatory limits, and dramatically remodeled penalties. The Jockey Clubs wants all racing jurisdictions to implement them in order to improve the integrity of the sport and enhance the safety of its athletes.
Another change the Jockey Club seeks is to provide guidance and a set of best practices to regulators in the administration of their furosemide programs. Of course, the Jockey Club advocates that horses race free from the influence of all medication and Lasix was the 500-pound gorilla in the room.
It also appears that the austere body seeks to deal with this hot-button issue free from as much confrontation as is possible and at a later date. Uniform Rules are Priority #1.
The Jockey Club wants racing’s stewards to work a lot harder, too, calling on the state’s regulatory bodies and the Association of Racing Commissioners International to develop and implement a rule calling for a stewards’ investigation and report of the circumstances associated with racing fatalities.
Further, it wants a more clearly defined rule that allows a claim to be voided on horses that officially finish the race but fail to return to a designated unsaddling area.
“Reformed rules would be a win/win situation for the industry,” said Jockey Club chairman Ogden Mills Phipps. “It would benefit honest and rule-abiding horsemen and just as importantly would benefit the racing fan who is wagering hard-earned money on what he believes to be fair and clean competition.”
The Jockey Club believes properly that the only way the industry can market its product successfully is if it reforms its medication rules. They believe those changes are needed if the industry is to attract new fans, new owners, sponsorship, and television programming.
Racing must compare favorably with steps taken by other sports in this area, that that’s the only way the public, professional observers, and the international racing community will be reassured that American Thoroughbred racing is doing everything possible.
It also might be the only way to avoid meddlesome federal intervention.