Dennis Drazin is a good man who has done much to keep racing alive in New Jersey, but his press statement released last Monday staggers the senses.
The last paragraph of his statement reads, “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.”
This should have been the opening of his statement. How can the chairman and CEO of Monmouth Park hire and maintain Jason Servis as his trainer? Do you really believe that his win percentage is high because he's that much better at training? Aren't you concerned about the whispers and innuendo from horsemen and horseplayers that follow him wherever he races, and how discouraging it is for trainers and owners who play by the rules? What about the avid fans of horse racing who want to enjoy the competition and thrills of the sport without worrying about the doping of racehorses?
I also believe that “regulators take their jobs seriously and endeavor to catch all cheaters.” But, it's hard to oversee a sport where regulatory oversight has been diffused, and often lax, across more than 30 separate state regulatory and enforcement agencies. The use of drugs in sports to obtain a competitive edge has almost become a common practice. As the investigation revealed, the horse racing industry is no different, and the sport's greatest races may have been compromised. So, what do we do now? The suspension of NJ state racing licenses comes after the fact, after the indictments, after the arrests.
While it is admirable that Dennis Drazin has called upon the New Jersey Legislature to enact sweeping reforms, it is clear this is not an issue unique to any specific state. The problem our industry faces is systemic and warrants a systemic solution. The indictments are a shining example of why we need H.R. 1754, the Horseracing Integrity Act (HIA), and a national, independent, anti-doping program that is the same for every jurisdiction. We can no longer afford to be both the presenter and the regulator of the program. The time has come for everyone involved in the horse racing industry to band together to right the wrongs of those who have tainted the sport. The industry needs to take a stand to show that cheaters and abusers will no longer be tolerated.
Whether it's the burden of proof, legal retribution or friendships with charming people who happen to cheat, too much gets in the way. Racing organizations need to move swiftly and decisively toward a better system of regulation and effective drug testing and present a united front to Congress. The best deterrent is enacting federal legislation. The owners, trainers, and jockeys need to have full confidence that our industry is providing them with a healthy, safe environment in which to compete, and we can do that only if the racehorses' needs come first.
We are at a turning point in our great sport's history. These last couple of years have been rough and the need to protect our equine and human athletes has never been greater. Dennis Drazin could be a major player in a horse racing renaissance if he chooses to embrace reforms to ensure this never happens again
Member HSUS Horseracing Integrity Act Council