Lazarus on HISA Anti-Doping and Medication Control

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Lisa Lazarus

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Bit by bit, the pieces of the puzzle are slotting into place for the Anti-Doping and Medication Control (ADMC) component of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, set to go into effect at the start of next year.

Last month, that program was designated an agency to officially run it–namely Drug Free Sports International, an organization that has helped administer drug testing programs to a slew of major human sports leagues.

Then, last week, the draft ADMC rules were for put out public comment. These draft rules can be found here.

Adolpho Birch, Chair of HISA's ADMC Committee, concurrently issued a letter outlining the primary changes to the revised ADMC rules as compared to the draft rules previously issued, when the United States Anti-Doping Agency's (USADA) appeared set to become HISA's enforcement agency.

In the letter, Birch points out that possible sanctions for controlled therapeutic medication violations have been reduced, to make a clearer distinction between medication offenses where banned substances are administered, and those when controlled therapeutic substances have been given.

Furthermore, in the event of a positive test result and a request for a B sample analysis, someone from the enforcement agency itself will choose the laboratory, which may be a different laboratory from the one that did the initial analysis.

Tuesday morning, HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus held a media Q&A to discuss the draft ADMC rules further. The following is a summary of her comments.

Responsible Persons

Lazarus provided interesting context to the reasons underpinning the need for trainers and owners to maintain daily treatment records for the horses in their care, a basic outline for which can be found here.

The registration system designates a responsible person for each horse. And that in turn places the burden on the responsible trainer or owner to make sure that they keep detailed records and documentation–essentially, run a “tight ship,” as Lazarus put it.

In the event of a medication violation, therefore, the HISA Authority can request these documents and records, “and those records can become part of the case,” said Lazarus.

In relation to this, Lazarus also expanded on HISA's “whereabouts” program, which essentially ensures that all horses under HISA's remit are accounted for at all times.

In the first phase of the whereabouts program, set to go into effect early next year, responsible persons are required to submit a whereabouts filing if they remove a horse from a racetrack or registered facility.

In other words, said Lazarus, “If you take a horse to a private facility or a private farm, you have to notify us.” And there are possible penalties for non-compliance, including potential fines for failure to submit a whereabouts filing.

However, failure to produce a horse for drug testing results in a presumptive two-year violation (pending a hearing), irrespective of any test result.

“If you take a horse off a public racetrack where we know where the horse is, you don't tell us where the horse is with the whereabouts filing, we look for the horse, we reach out to the Covered Person–we're going to have access to all of this through our database–and they don't produce [the horse] immediately for testing, then, it's a presumptive two-year penalty,” said Lazarus.

Ultimately, said Lazarus, the plan is for a system in place that identifies the whereabouts of any covered horse at any time.

“But one of the things we want to understand and see is whether or not we can really just mine that data from existing resources without putting a paperwork burden on participants,” she said.

Case Management

Before diving into this section, there are some important nomenclature changes to note, as compared to the previous draft rules' use of “primary” and “secondary” substances.

Under these revised draft rules, “prohibited substances” is an umbrella term for anything that shouldn't be in a horse on race day. Banned substances refers to doping substances, while controlled medications are essentially therapeutic substances.

A list of banned and controlled substances, along with possible sanctions in the event of a positive test result, can be found here.

Lazarus provided a snap-shot of the case management process.

In the event a horse tests positive for a banned substance like a steroid, an anabolic agent or a growth hormone, the responsible person is immediately suspended until a hearing takes place.

“The presumption is that this is a two-year sanction,” said Lazarus.

However, that two-year sanction can be reduced if the responsible person can show “no fault or no significant fault,” said Lazarus, adding how any penalty reduction is predicated upon the responsible person proving how the substance got into the horse's system in the first place.

“So, for example, if you're in a situation of a steroid [positive] and you want to argue that somebody gave the horse a steroid without your knowledge, you have to actually prove that [scenario] to the confidence and satisfaction of the hearing panel,” said Lazarus, who also explained how there will be potential four-year bans in the event of “aggravating circumstances” like trafficking, evading sample collection and tampering with samples.

Public Disclosure of Test Results

Under USADA's version of the ADMC program, one rather controversial component concerned how A samples results weren't necessarily going to be automatically disclosed to the public.

But Lazarus pointed to a change of tune, with A sample results now indeed set to be made available online.

“You'll know the covered person, covered horse, and the substance that was detected in the sample,” she said. “You'll be able to follow the case essentially as it goes through the various steps. [For example,] if there's a hearing to lift a suspension that'll be recorded, the decision will be recorded,” she added.

Shortened Adjudication Timelines

The timeline to hear and adjudicate cases will be “incredibly reduced” when compared to the current model at the individual state level, said Lazarus.

After a hearing, for example, the arbitrator will have to issue a decision within 14 days. In the appeals process, defendants have 30 days to file an appeal to the charges, and then, a hearing must happen within 60 days after initial notice.

When asked if the tightened system provides adequate time for defendants to mount a fair defense–especially in complex cases–Lazarus said that cases will be adjudicated on an individual basis, with wriggle room given in “exceptional circumstances” so as not to compromise due process.

That said, the truncated timeline–along with any provisional suspension in the event of a banned substance violation–could also act as an incentivizing lever, said Lazarus.

“If you're dealing with a two-year penalty and it's a banned substance, you're going to be suspended during the case processing scheduling period, and so they're probably going to be very motivated to have it heard quickly as well, so, it also protects the participants,” she said.

Registration Numbers

According to Lazarus, nearly half the horses and covered persons who need to be registered by July 1 have done so. However, racing offices will soon provide a “can't race flag” if a horse that is entered to race is not registered with HISA, she said.

This is intended more as a prompt, said Lazarus, as it won't necessarily affect the horse's eligibility to race, just as long as that horse is, indeed, registered by July 1.

Drug Testing

The actual ADMC testing program is still being developed, said Lazarus, and so, specifics are thin.

That said, in the past various officials have suggested that under HISA, all winners won't necessarily be tested post-race–something of a departure from the current model.

Lazarus indicated, however, that indeed, the post-race drug testing net could still accommodate all winners.

“We're trying to balance a robust testing program that has a deterrent effect with the intelligence-based advantages you get from looking at intelligence metrics,” said Lazarus.

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