Changing the culture – or risk going down the circus and dog racing route | Topics: Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, Charles Hayward, View From The Rail, USADA

Edwin Moses: The Olympic legend speaks at the 2015 Jockey Club roundtable conference on anti-doping initiatives. Photo: Jockey Club

In his regular column, Charles Hayward says an agreement between the racing industry and USADA is crucial to the future of the sport – and he’s by no means alone in this view.

Primarily through the efforts of the Jockey Club, the thoroughbred racing industry has developed a strong relationship with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

This goes back many years, as a series of USADA leaders have made presentations at the annual Jockey Club Roundtable Conferences held each year in Saratoga.

Travis Tygart: The head of USADA gave a commencement speech as early as 2012. Photo: Jockey ClubUSADA Chief Executive Officer Travis Tygart was the keynote speaker at the 60th Annual in 2012, where he addressed delegates on “Preserving Your Rights and the Integrity of Competition” with particular reference to his experience of Olympic competition.

Culture of the winner at all costs

Here is a brief commentary from Tygart’s presentation that resonated with me: “I think when athletes make the decision to cheat, it’s because they feel they have to do it to win, that the culture has gone beyond the rules. So they won’t be victims, [it’s] the culture of the winner at all costs.

“You need to have effective testing. We have out-of-competition controls. We literally have our athletes’ information, cell phones, home addresses, training sites – about 3,000 of them 365 days a year, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. , we go to their training centers. We take blood, we take urine.

Tygart is, of course, aware of the legislative initiative that the thoroughbred racing and breeding industry has undertaken since the Horse Racing Integrity and Security Act (HISA) was first offered in 2015.

As a result, he became familiar with the importance of this federal legislation and the organization’s potentially important role now that the legislation has been passed by the House and Senate and signed by the President.

A regular round table topic

Three years after Tygart at the 2015 Roundtable, USADA President Edwin C. Moses, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, spoke on ‘The Anti-Doping Effectiveness Matrix’.

At the 2016 Roundtable, Jeff Novitzky (Vice President, Athletic Health and Performance for UFC, Ultimate Fighting Championship) makes a presentation on the new contract between the UFC and USADA.

“In January 2015 last year, the owners of the UFC, seeing the ineffectiveness of these varying rules and protocols, determined they needed their own set of anti-doping rules and entered into a contract with USADA. to provide an ongoing anti-doping program.

USADA administers the independent year-round anti-doping program for all UFC athletes. To help UFC athletes and their support team members understand the rules that apply to them, USADA provides comprehensive instructions on the UFC Anti-Doping Program website regarding the testing process and banned substances, how to obtain clearance to use a necessary medication, and the risks and dangers of taking supplements, as well as performance-enhancing and recreational drugs.

These important features would likely also be provided to horse racing customers. It is important to note that Jeff Novitzky is an independent member of the Board of Directors.

At the 2017 roundtable, Shawn Smealie, executive director of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, and Barbara Banke, owner of Stonestreet Farm, both spoke about the importance of the Horseracing Integrity Act.

“Not just recovery, but prosperity”

At the 2019 Roundtable, Jockey Club Vice President William Lear again argued in favor of the Horseracing Integrity Act. “We need to do more to eliminate cheaters and abusers from our sport and there is a way forward,” he said. “The HISA represents this path. It can put us on the path not just to recovery, but to prosperity, if we all join in. »

It is important to note that after the passage of the HISA legislation in December 2020, Charles Scheeler [chairman of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority board of directors]and Dr. Tessa Muir [USADA director of equine science, assigned to HISA]made impressive presentations at the 2021 Roundtable.

Let’s be frank here. I don’t believe any horse racing jurisdiction or professional sports team would dispute the fact that USADA has the most sophisticated and effective anti-doping protocol in all of sport.

USADA was founded in 2000 and for two decades served as the anti-doping agency for all US Olympic and Paralympic sports. Not only did Congress pass the Horse Racing Integrity and Security Act (HISA) in December 2021, but USADA was listed in the legislation as the preferred supplier/anti-doping agency subject to enforcement. ‘contract.

Such a development would be a transformational event for the future of Thoroughbred racing in the United States.

Why was this such an important event? Well, each state has its own horse racing commission and political commissioners with its own set of rules for each individual drug and disparate penalties and no national standards for lab test performance and economics.

The result is that there are no standard rules from state to state, leading to wide variations in testing, particularly due to cost.

The hammer blow for race hopefuls

The hammer blow came late last year on Dec. 23 — a year after the HISA legislation was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump — when USADA and the HISA Board of Directors announced that they had been unable to reach a contract and that they suspended talks.

It has now been over two months and there is no indication that any progress has been made in reaching an agreement – and HISA is set to resume most aspects of thoroughbred racing on July 1. It’s only been four months.

Let me repeat. As I said in this space a few weeks ago, USADA has proven itself time and time again; there is no better option for racing.

But if you’re sick of listening to me on this topic, here are a few other respected voices with deep knowledge of the sport, starting with Rick Abbott, a former member of the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission.

Abbott doesn’t mince words, stating, “Without USADA’s involvement, the Horse Racing Safety and Integrity Act is a needless and ridiculous waste of time and the races don’t get any better for it.

“State racing commissions still lack the power to investigate and the courage to enforce their rules. Cheating and favoritism will proliferate like never before and races will wither and die. If you think that won’t happen, I have two places to sell you at the finish line for the 2022 Arlington Million.”

Then there are these comments on the Water Hay Oats Alliance website following a warning notice from the organization published in the Paulick Report for February 9 under the title “Broken Systems and Cronyism: OMSA Advisory Board Says Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Authority Will Flood Without USADA”.

WHOA says there is no other entity “which is nationally recognized as a drug regulatory agency equal in qualification to USADA. We challenge HISA to find another agency that meets USADA’s program criteria. THERE ARE NOT ANY.”

USADA is the best answer: Strawbridge, Motion, Cauthen, Hancock

And here’s what some well-known running personalities had to say on the matter:

“As of late December, negotiations between HISA and USADA stalled. The OMSA-backed legislative compromise – to put USADA back in its rightful place with a five-year contract – was aborted. other options and questioning other entities to replace USADA. It’s too bad. What a travesty. What are the insurmountable problems that would prevent a five-year contract between USADA and HISA?” George Strawbridge

“I was so disappointed to see the breakdown of talks between HISA and USADA. There is no other agency that handles testing as thoroughly as USADA, we need to bring them back to the table so that they can clean up our sport. Graham’s movement

“We need USADA now. Time is running out to end doping in racing. » Steve Cauthen

“I don’t think the equine industry realizes the predicament it finds itself in, and it desperately needs the integrity of USADA to help cement its sorry reputation. Cheaters still cheat, horses still die, and public perception continues to deteriorate. Arthur Hancock

Our final commentator is Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action. In a piece for the Chief of the Lexington Herald, he says: “When the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (Act) was signed into law in December 2020, after six years of hard lobbying, I honestly thought American horse racing was finally on the right track to protecting horses and eradicating doping for good. .

“We knew enforcement would be key to good outcomes for horses, but recent developments on this front made me skeptical. We had reviewed dozens of draft versions of the bill and at least half – dozens of different bills introduced in the House and Senate over the past decade.

“Some covered certain races, some banned Lasix and some did not, and generally Senate bills differed from House measures, even when the bill leaders were on the same page. There was only one constant in each bill: to have the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) oversee the execution and enforcement of the law and perform all doping testing in sport.

“In nearly a thousand meetings of Congress, we have conveyed this essential point, and at every turn, USADA’s involvement has been essential – in fact, USADA is the very foundation of the new law. “

Indeed, I agree that USADA is the very foundation of the new law and that this foundation cannot be replaced or duplicated.

America’s thoroughbred racing and breeding industries are in a very precarious position that is not going to repair itself. “Go out there to get along and on the way take advantage when you can” too often seems to be a popular modus operandi.

There is a culture of cheating in American racing. Collectively, we are changing the culture where the racing industry is moving in the direction of circus and dog racing.

• Visit the American Jockey Club website

Charles Hayward: If we don’t clean up our act, we won’t have sports

Charles Hayward: USADA has proven itself time and time again – there is no better option for racing

Charles Hayward: If HISA and USADA don’t find a way to work together, racing may not have a future in America

Charles Hayward: Of course, launching HISA wasn’t going to be easy – but it should be worth it.

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Martin E. Berry