On Monday, there will be a seismic shift in horse racing. That's when the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Authority will launch its Anti-Doping and Medication Control program and, in most states, will take over the responsibilities of drug testing and drug adjudications. With that date right around the corner, the TDN Writers' Room podcast presented by Keeneland brought in HISA's CEO Lisa Lazarus to give an update on what to expect once HISA takes over. Lazarus was this week's Green Group Guest of the Week.
Lazarus made it clear that one of HISA's major goals is to do everything in its power to stop anyone who tries to use performance-enhancing drugs to get an edge. To do so, they will go beyond drug testing and will rely on investigations and intelligence.
“Our test distribution plan is going to be investigations and intelligence led,” she said. “We are not going to be relying primarily on post-race testing in order to discern who actually is breaking the rules. We've got a very robust investigative team headed by Shaun Richards, who is a former FBI agent. He is actually the one who worked up all the evidence in the prosecutions in the Southern District involving Navarro and Servis, et cetera. We really are focusing on the intelligence.”
Lazarus said she knows there are still those in the industry who are anti-HISA and have a lot of trepidation about it taking over when it comes to drug testing. She said one of her main goals for HISA is to change that narrative.
“I would like to have gained the trust of the majority of horsemen and players in the industry,” she said when asked about her goals for the coming year. “You may agree or disagree about a rule here or there, and that's all good. That's all part of the dialogue. But I really hope that and believe that we'll have the majority saying that this is actually needed. That we needed a uniform system. We needed uniform rules. This is good. And this is this actually professionalizes our sport to a different level. I hope that horsemen will feel like there is a level playing field. I hope the public sees racing horse racing in a different way, that it is safer and with more integrity.”
Another change that HISA will usher in is that it will differentiate between drugs that are true performance-enhancers and therapeutic medications that were still in a horse's system when they were tested. They will also have a separate category for positives that appear to be the result of environmental contamination.
“We completely separated the rule book into two categories, the banned substances, which are the doping substances; versus the controlled medications, which are the therapeutics,” she said. “And we take a very different philosophical approach to those two categories. If you have a banned substance in a horse, which is a performance enhancement that should never be in a horse, the penalties are severe. They're severe, they're swift, and they will be game-changing. If you make a mistake or if you have a therapeutic overage, there will be consequences, but they'll be proportionate to the to the violation. We also have a policy called the Atypical Findings Policy, which basically has 27 different substances that, if detected in a horse's system, we know it's almost certain to be result of contamination. Those will go through a different process. If we are satisfied after looking at those a little bit more deeply that it really is contamination, there's no loss of purse, there's no sanction. It's like it never happened.”
Elsewhere on the podcast, which is also sponsored by Coolmore, the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, Woodford Thoroughbreds, The Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, XBTV, 1/st Racing, WinStar Farm and West Point Thoroughbreds, Randy Moss and Bill Finley took a look at the remarkable year 87-year-old trainer Wayne Lukas is having. Lukas won last weekend's biggest race, the GIII Essex H. at Oaklawn Park with Last Samurai (Malibu Moon). There was also a discussion of the promising numbers that came out of the Equine Injury Database for 2022. The 2022 figure of 1.25 fatalities per 1,000 starters was the lowest since The Jockey Club began compiling fatality numbers in 2009. Looking ahead to this weekend's racing, the team gave their thoughts on the major races at the Fair Grounds and Turfway Park, which include key GI Kentucky Derby preps in the GII Louisiana Derby and the GIII Jeff Ruby Steaks S.
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