Choosing not to comment last week as the horse racing world responded en masse to the bombshell announcement of indictments against 27 figures in the sport, including high-profile trainers Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis, Darby Development CEO and Monmouth Park Operator Dennis Drazin has weighed in with a lengthy statement that was released Monday, shortly after Monmouth announced it will close and push back the start of its racing meet due to coronavirus concerns.
The statement reads in part, “First and foremost, Monmouth Park and Darby Development, as well as I personally, condemn the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) or any drugs which are illegal to be used in our industry. I remained silent last week in the aftermath of the news of the indictment because I wanted to give our regulators, the New Jersey Racing Commission (NJRC), and the Attorney General’s Office an opportunity to address the indictment, and, as expected, the NJRC suspended the licenses of seven of the indicted individuals who were licensed in New Jersey. Jorge Navarro did not have a 2020 license otherwise his license would have been suspended also according to the NJRC.
“The NJRC has diligently tested for drugs for many years and utilized respected reputable labs to do so. I am a former Chairman of the NJRC and can assure you that our regulators take their jobs seriously and endeavor to catch all cheaters.
“Regarding the indictments, if proven, they threaten the very integrity of our sport and must be seriously addressed. We can have no tolerance for those who cheat or try to take an illegal edge. I am calling upon our New Jersey legislature to enact a more comprehensive form of sweeping reforms than currently has been stalled in Washington, otherwise known as the Horseracing Integrity Act (HIA). I have already started the process of asking the State of New Jersey to pass legislation, which in addition to the worthwhile reforms contained in the HIA, will include more widespread reforms including, but not limited to: racetrack safety and integrity; racetrack surface safety inspections; increased examination of horses who intend to race or train at our racetracks; jockey health and safety; changes in the whip rule; post-racing aftercare for horses; uniformity in medication rules and penalties; sharing of all veterinary reports amongst interested parties; and, many other needed reforms.
“The only permitted medication use on race day will be Lasix … To be clear, there can be no use of race-day medications except Lasix and even Lasix must be administered by a third-party veterinarian, as is the current regulatory policy.”
Drazin also pledged support for an emerging idea of having a regulated on-track pharmacy and a policy where no one can use drugs that didn’t come from said pharmacy.
“Furthermore, I am also requesting that the legislature authorize the NJRC to develop a pharmacy located at the racetrack and that no drugs or medication can be in the possession of anyone, even veterinarians on the racetrack, unless it is obtained from the track-regulated pharmacy. I am also requesting the legislature to authorize the NJRC to contact the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) or any other drug-testing agency or laboratory of their recommendation to retain their services for the immediate control of our drug testing. The NJRC and New Jersey Attorney General’s Office will continue to regulate horse racing in New Jersey. These reforms will help restore public confidence in our sport.”
Drazin addressed the fact that Navarro and Servis raced heavily at Monmouth and often dominated at the Oceanport oval, saying, “I should also reinforce that unfortunately two of Monmouth Park’s own trainers were indicted and although they also raced in New York, Florida, and elsewhere, we must accept the fact that we have to do a better job, even though these offenses are handled by our regulators. In that regard, additional discussions will be pursued with our regulators about the feasibility of enhancing camera security in our barns and purchasing additional equipment for horse diagnostics to detect preexisting injuries and other safety risks. Monmouth Park will be adding additional committees designed to screen horses which are entered and applying for stalls, as well as additional positions for a medical and safety director.”
Finally, Drazin touched on the controversy of him owning horses trained by Servis, closing by saying, “I should also add that this indictment is particularly sad in that Jason Servis was my trainer. During my 45 years as an attorney, Chairman of the NJRC and racetrack operator, I have always advocated that cheating cannot be tolerated and I would never tolerate illegal conduct. My horses are being moved to Pat McBurney.