by Matt Iuliano
I read with great interest the comments expressed by the chairman of the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission and Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) stalwart, W. Duncan Patterson, at the annual meeting of the Organization of Racing Investigators held recently at Delaware Park (Delaware Regulator Argues USADA in Racing a Mistake, TDN, March 15, 2016).
Mr. Patterson’s comments fall in line with the campaign of misinformation waged against H.R. 3084, the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015, by opponents of the bill over the past several months.
It is a campaign notable for the extent to which it mischaracterizes the provisions of H.R. 3084 and for the vehemence of the rhetoric it employs in condemning both the mischaracterized legislation and those who support it.
And it is all premised on the bedrock assumption that everything is totally fine in the realm of Thoroughbred medication regulation. The following are some examples from Mr. Patterson’s diatribe, contrasted with what H.R. 3084 actually provides.
Mr. Patterson states: “The medications that are approved by USADA are some medications which we do not allow in racing at any threshold level. By the same token, there are other medications we allow that they don’t allow. So our whole medication schedule would have to be revamped under this.”
Mr. Patterson is clearly suggesting that H.R. 3084 would require that the same schedules of permitted and prohibited substances under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code for human competition be used for horse racing.
This is absurd.
Section 4(a) of the bill authorizes formation of a new authority with national jurisdiction to regulate all pari-mutuel anti-doping matters.
Section 7 requires that all relevant sources of information be considered when preparing the regulations, including the WADA code, the Principles of Ethics of the American Veterinary Medical Association applicable to horse racing, the Uniform Classification Guidelines for Foreign Substances of the ARCI, and, for the purposes of Mr. Patterson’s assertions, section 7(b).
Section 7(b) expressly allows the initial list of substances permitted in pari-mutuel horse racing to include those substances listed in the ARCI Therapeutic Medication Schedule Version 2.2, colloquially referred to as the NUMP – the National Uniform Medication Program, which was developed and is supported by a broad cross section of regulators, horsemen’s groups and other industry organizations.
Nowhere in the bill does it require the regulatory authority to implement the schedules and uses approved by USADA for human sports in horse racing. The only revamping necessary under H.R. 3084 would be for those 14 pari-mutuel horse racing jurisdictions that have so far ignored the industry’s state-by-state advocacy efforts to adopt the NUMP.
Mr. Patterson also states: “Currently USADA does 8,400 tests a year. Nationwide, we do 300,000 tests. Travis Tygart, the head of USADA, is obviously very knowledgeable, but when asked what plan he had to ramp up his testing by almost 40 times, he had no plan. When asked about the costs of their tests we were told about $1,000 a test. Currently, we spend, nationally, $30 million on testing. Simple math will tell you we will go from $30
million to $300 million. Who in the hell is going to pay for that?”
This statement requires careful unpacking to keep the erroneous assertions duly separated.
First of all, there is no U.S. racing lab that tests 300,000 samples. That is the aggregate amount of U.S. samples that are tested annually. Drug testing laboratories are selected and regulated differently among the 38 separate jurisdictions with the dozen or so labs each following their own unique operating standards and procedures.
H.R. 3084 would expand testing beyond the current levels through mandatory out-of-competition testing. Moreover, only those labs that meet the strict accreditation requirements required under the bill would be permitted to test.
Secondly, it is ridiculous to extrapolate human testing costs to horses, or other species for that matter, because of the different substances, the frequency of detection, and the laboratory methodology employed.
Section 9 of the bill authorizes the new national regulatory authority to enter into agreements with state racing commissions to implement, within their respective jurisdictions, any of the components of the anti-doping program. These agreements remain in place as long as the state complies with the standards and requirements of the anti-doping program established by the regulatory authority.
Section 12 of H.R. 3084 authorizes the new regulatory authority to levy assessments on the states to cover the incremental costs associated with complying with the anti-doping program. Thus, the execution of the program within the states relies upon leveraging to the fullest extent possible all existing and available anti-doping resources currently deployed within the states.
According to an analysis by McKinsey & Company, developed with USADA’s input and presented at The Jockey Club’s Round Table Conference 2014, the incremental cost of the anti-doping program for pari-mutuel Thoroughbred racing would be approximately $60 per start.
Mr. Patterson later states: “It has been proven that Lasix is really necessary. Some may disagree, but it’s really necessary to keep the horses running. And there are other medications used on regular basis that are needed.”
It seems more than a bit ironic to hear the longtime ARCI member utter such a statement on the threshold of the five-year anniversary of an ARCI announcement on March 28, 2011, that included the statement: “Today over 99% of Thoroughbred racehorses and 70% of Standardbred racehorses have a needle stuck in them four hours before a race. That just does not pass the smell test with the public or anyone else except horse trainers who think it necessary to win a race.”
Where in the bill is there an immediate prohibition of race-day Lasix?
Section 7(b) contains the initial list of substances permitted in pari-mutuel horse racing, which includes those listed in the ARCI Therapeutic Medication Schedule Version 2.2 (again, the NUMP). Page three of that schedule — following Firocoxib and just before Glycopyrrolate — is the medication Furosemide.
To be clear, The Jockey Club does not take issue with the principles of NUMP, which Mr. Patterson and many others support. Rather, it is the wide differences in rule-making processes among the states, coupled with local influences and practices, that reaffirm the need to change. The system we have relied upon to adopt NUMP (and other needed reforms) throughout the land is broken and needs to change.
H.R. 3084, when thoughtfully examined, offers us the best opportunity for meaningful reform.
Matt F. Iuliano is the executive vice president and executive director of The Jockey Club. In that role, he oversees all matters concerning The American Stud Book and represents The Jockey
Club as it interacts with national and international industry organizations and committees. He received a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and a master’s degree in physiology and biophysics from Colorado State University before earning an MBA and a law degree from the University of Louisville.