Many state racing commissioners talk about cracking down on cheaters in our sport. Indiana regulators are taking serious action.
On March 16, the Indiana Horse Racing Commission approved regulations designed to end the “business as usual” activities in the stable of a suspended trainer. The new rule, pushed by the commission’s executive director, Joe Gorajec, prevents a trainer banned for more than 15 days from transferring horses in his stable to a family member or employee. It’s been the custom in racing for years that trainers who receive a suspension turn their horses over to a spouse or assistant trainer until they are allowed to return. The suspensions, thus, are ineffective as punishment. This new rule will force owners to transfer their horses from the suspended trainer to another barn if they wish to race them during the term of the suspension.
The Indiana rule also gives the commission the discretion to require that horses be stabled on the grounds of a racetrack if their trainer has been suspended. Horses from out of state also may be ruled ineligible to compete in Indiana if they are trained by an employee or family member of a trainer suspended in another jurisdiction.
Indiana regulators are setting the standard for other racing states, and not just through this latest regulation. Stiff penalties, tighter backstretch security, and enhanced drug testing are being used as deterrents to cheaters in Indiana, and a new program, Integrity ’06, provides some of the details.
Practicing veterinarians are prohibited from seeing a horse on the day it races, with two exceptions: health emergencies and administration of the anti-bleeding medication Salix. Security personnel are required to observe all Salix shots, including the drawing of the medication from an unopened package.
Integrity ’06 also clearly identifies horses on raceday and requires tracks to hire additional security whose sole responsibility is to watch those horses. An additional element of Integrity ‘06 is blood-gas (or milkshake) testing before a race, allowing stewards to scratch a horse in the event of a higher-than-permitted level.
Over the past year, according to Gorajec, four trainers found to have administered the corticosteroid dexamethasone (a Class 4 drug) on raceday received one-year suspensions, with two of the trainers agreeing not to re-apply for a license before 2010. Two veterinarians were suspended for a year for giving vitamin injections on the day of a race, and Gorajec has recommended a seven-year suspension to a trainer whose horse tested positive for the Class 1 drug mephentermine, a blood-pressure medication.
Indiana is not only tough on licensees that violate its rules. The commission has refused to license 53 applicants in 2005 and ’06; 32 of those applicants held licenses from other states.
The horsemen are happy with these get-tough policies, according to the results of a survey conducted by Indiana University on behalf of the commission. According to the survey, 40% of respondents said regulatory efforts in Indiana were either better than average or the best they have experienced. The state’s drug-testing program rated high, too, with 48% saying it was the best or better than average compared with other states. Only 14% said Indiana’s penalties are too strict, with 46% saying they are about right and 22% saying they are too lenient.
(Complete results of the survey and details about Integrity ’06 can be found at http://www.in.gov/ihrc/.
The commission’s latest action, prohibiting the transfer of horses to an employee or family member in the event of a suspension to a trainer, is going to make life more difficult for those individuals who break the rules.
Good for Indiana. When will regulators in other states do more than just talk about cleaning up the sport?