Progress Cited on Medication Penalty System

Racing organizations are moving ahead with plans to implement a points-driven penalty system for equine medication violations.

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, in a June 6 release, said its board of directors gave preliminary approval to a multiple violation penalty, or MVP, system by which trainers will accumulate points for each drug violation. Mandatory suspensions will range from 30 to 360 days.

Meanwhile, the Association of Racing Commissioners International Regulatory Attorneys Committee also advanced a proposal to enhance penalties for trainers with multiple drug violations. RCI said June 6 the plan is "similar to the approach taken by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines that imposes an additional penalty to an underlying violation based on multiple offenses."

Violations would be tracked by RCI, which would assign points. Enhanced penalties would be added to a fine or suspension imposed for the underlying violation once a trainer exceeds a certain points level, RCI said.

RMTC officials said points would be based on the RCI Uniform Classification Guidelines for Foreign Substances. Points for violations involving drugs onto on the Controlled Therapeutic Substance List would be doubled.

"The MVP system provides a simple and straightforward method to deal with multiple medication offenders, regardless of the type of violation or the location of each violation," RMTC executive director and chief operating officer Dionne Benson said. "This is a huge step for racing and the control of medication in our sport."

Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association chairman Alan Foreman, who chairs the RMTC Penalties Subcommittee and has spearheaded medication uniformity in the Mid-Atlantic region, said the MVP system is the third component of the drug uniformity effort.

"When fully implemented, the MVP system, combined with the limited designation of controlled therapeutic substances and the RMTC Laboratory Accreditation Program, will allow North American racing to uniformly reduce medication violations, standardize drug testing across jurisdictions, enhance the quality of our testing, and enable regulators to identify repeat violators and issue penalties that are meaningful and a deterrent," Foreman said.

"This will be of great benefit to the horsemen, the regulatory community, the health and welfare of our horses, and the betting public who support our sport," he added

RCI officials said all enhanced penalties currently under consideration are in the form of prolonged suspensions regardless of whether the underlying sanction is in the form of a fine.

"Many of us believe that this approach will effectively tackle the problem posed by those who look at getting several violations as a cost of doing business," RCI president Ed Martin said in a release. "Under this system, a trainer who is cited for three lower-level phenylbutazone overages will get a 30-day suspension on top of the recommended $500-$1,000 fine."

The RCI Regulatory Attorneys Committee met earlier the week of June 2 via conference call and voted to modify a proposal from a RMTC working group to create a separate violation for multiple offenses.

"The U.S. system of jurisprudence permits appeals on each separate violation," Martin said. "The length of time it takes to finalize a case is often beyond the control of a racing commission, and our attorneys thought that this should be structured differently. Creating a separate violation creates the possibility of an even longer appeals process before a case is final."

RMTC and RCI propose that points assigned for lesser penalty class violations be permitted to expire over a period of time.

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