RCI Approves Points System for Drug Penalties

Regulations also voted to toughen penalties for blood-doping of horses.

by Teresa Genaro and Tom LaMarra

The Association of Racing Commissioners International voted July 31 to approve model rules that create a points system and enhanced penalties for drug violations.

The RCI board of directors, which met in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., also voted to require a 10-year suspension and $100,000 fine for anyone found guilty of administering blood-doping agents. The RCI Model Rules Committee met July 30 to discuss the model rules and related amendments.

Under the point system scheduled to be launched in 2014, violations of the medication rule for substances not on the RCI Schedule of Controlled Therapeutic Substances would earn 1 to 6 points, depending on its official classification as determined by the potential to affect performance. Overages involving 24 therapeutic medications included on the list would earn half as many points, depending on classification.

Depending on the number of points amassed by a repeat offender, the enhanced penalty would be in the form of additional suspension days of between 30 and 360, which would be added to the underlying penalty.

"This system is workable and will be a deterrent to those who consistently violate our medication rules," said Duncan Patterson, chairman of RCI and the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission.

Action by RCI follows approval of the model rules by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, a group of industry stakeholders.

The RCI Model Rules Committee meeting set the state for the July 31 vote. Lasting more than two hours, the discussion caused a meeting scheduled for 4 1/2 hours to run over by nearly two hours as the committee worked through points of contention in the original proposal.

While expressing support for the concept, a number of racing commissioners were concerned by what they considered holes in the original proposal, suggesting that passing a flawed rule would be imprudent. Patterson said he was taken aback by the objections to the proposal, and that he would be "embarrassed for the organization" if the proposal didn't pass the committee.

"We will be severely criticized, and justifiably so, within the industry if we don't pass this," he said.

Among the concerns about the original proposal were the lack of specificity regarding when an infraction's points would be added to an offender's record, and whether that would happen on the date the infraction occurred or at the end of any possible appeals process.

Another subject of the discussion was the feasibility of funding and maintaining the RCI database of infractions, which would need to be kept current in order to be effective, as well as requiring the participation and commitment of all racing jurisdictions.

Rather than pass the proposal as written, the committee stayed past the meeting's scheduled ending time to address some of the concerns and pass the proposal with amendments that were brought to the RCI board of directors July 31.

Though regulatory violations will remain part of a licensee's permanent record, points will be expunged after a period of time based upon the category of punishment deemed appropriate given the substance classification, officials said.

"I would anticipate that as this system is implemented, there will be a desire to expand upon it," RCI president Ed Martin said.

All racing regulatory agencies will be expected to submit ruling violation data through a central portal into the RCI database, which will track points and their expiration, Martin said.

RCI officials said the organization addressed a concern brought forward by the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association concerning trainers who might be cited for multiple violations involving the same medication on the same day due to changes in testing protocols or equipment. The rule permits judges, stewards, or racing commissions to consider those a single violation should the facts warrant.

"This is an important step toward creating an additional deterrent to those who deliberately violate our rules or are persistently sloppy in the administration of medications," Martin said. "Given the fact that we have created uniform thresholds for controlled therapeutic medications, determined a clear line when those medications should be stopped, and consistent lab standards for all are to follow, there should be no reason for the vast majority of honest trainers to ever come up against this rule."