Alex Waldrop, the president and chief executive officer of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, was one of several major sports executives to testify before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection in a hearing titled, “Drugs in Sports: Compromising the Health of Athletes and Undermining the Integrity of Competition.”
In his opening remarks, Waldrop said the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium provides a “credible, scientifically based, industry-led forum for addressing the multitude of drug and medication issues presented by modern day veterinary medicine.
“Is our testing protocol perfect? No. Can it be improved? Absolutely,” Waldrop told assembled committee members. “But the major industry stakeholders are united in their commitment to address drug and medication issues on a national basis through the RMTC and RCI (Racing Commissioners International).”
U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, who in addressing an earlier panel Feb. 27 criticized horse racing’s testing policies, later grilled Waldrop on a 2004 quote from a former leader of the NTRA, D.G. Van Clief: “We have endeavored to adopt uniform rules governing the use of medication for years without success – despite the clear need to do so.” (Note: A story on the NTRA Web site quotes the last part of that statement as “despite the clear case for uniformity.”
“Do you agree with that statement?” Whitfield asked.
“I do not agree,” Waldrop replied. “Since that statement was made, a great deal of progress has been made.”
Whitfield then talked in theory about forcing states to comply with a national uniform testing model by adding conditions to the federal Interstate Horseracing Act, which permits simulcasting.
“Would it be unreasonable to say if a state doesn’t adopt (the rules), they could lose simulcast rights?” Whitfield asked.
“No. That would not be unreasonable,” Waldrop replied.
Whitfield earlier asked Waldrop if steroids should simply be banned in all U.S. racing.
“There is a need to abolish them in competition,” Waldrop said.
“So, if a horse tests positive for steroids, it shouldn’t be racing,” Whitfield countered.
“That is correct,” Waldrop replied.
Waldrop was also asked why some states haven’t adopted the model rule. Waldrop, like other panelists participating in the hearing, noted all testing isn’t foolproof.
“It was interesting hearing the discussion about the human growth hormone and the differences in testing urine and testing blood plasma,” Waldrop said. “That is the situation we find in horse racing where steroids are concerned.
“What horsemen are telling us is we want rules…you tell us what we can do to comply, and we will comply,” he continued. “I have read all the clips and I know what they are saying all around the country and I have yet to hear a horseman say ‘we do not want to stop using steroids.’ What they are saying is we want a test for plasma. And that is reasonable. The RMTC is doing the research and we think by the end of the year they can get full compliance.”
Waldrop was also asked about barring horses from competing in states that haven’t adopted model rules.
“That would be unprecedented,” he said. “The more important rule is that as more and more states adopt the model rule on steroids, other states that don’t comply will have to if they (want horses to compete). You can’t use steroids in one state and take that horse to another state that bans steroids because you are going to test positive.”
Waldrop was part of an afternoon panel that included Jim Scherr, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee; and Myles Brand, president of the National Collegiate Athletics Association, among others. The morning panel included commissioners Bud Selig of Major League Baseball, David Stern of the National Basketball Association, and Roger Goodell of the National Football League, among others.
The morning session was televised live on ESPNews, while the afternoon session was available only via Web cast.
The Blood-Horse online managing editor Ron Mitchell contributed to this article.