New York state regulators are poised to crack down on jockeys, trainers, and others with racing licenses who test positive for alcohol while at New York racetracks.
Penalties could include everything from fines to suspensions and mandatory treatment.
The move by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board seeks to make more consistent the various programs by tracks to ensure alcohol does not impair the ability of jockeys and others to do their jobs safely.
“We do it for harness and I think we should do it for the Thoroughbred side to be more consistent,” said racing board member Charlie Diamond. “The focus here is on safety for the jockeys, the integrity of the game, and the safety of the horse. There is a great deal of support for this idea. We’re open to tweaking to further increase the support we are getting.”
The proposed rule states that alcohol impairment would be considered following a random breathalyzer test showing a minimum level of .05 percent alcohol in the blood by weight.
Officials say that is consistent with a current permitted BAC level in the state’s harness rule for drivers, as well as a model rule by the Racing Commissioners International. It is lower than some tracks, though, such as Woodbine in Toronto, which last year kept jockey Kent Desormeaux from riding a race last year after blowing just a .02 percent in a breathalyzer test.
New York officials say their move comes after the New York Racing Association last year began random alcohol tests and set a BAC limit of .04 percent. But regulators want a more consistent program – and one that also punishes infractions.
“The Thoroughbred rule amendment is necessary to ensure that jockeys, other licensees, and racing officials are not intoxicated or alcohol-impaired while performing their duties, thereby making certain that horse racing is conducted safely and the integrity of pari-mutuel racing is preserved” the racing board said in a notice to the industry.
The proposed rule calls for breathalyzers – to be purchased by the state – to be located at every track. The tests could be given not just to jockeys, but all licenses. Refusing to take a test will be considered the same as violating the rule with the same penalties. The rule also affects track officials, who will be kept from their duties if a positive alcohol test is found with notification also sent to the racing board.
Jockeys testing positive will not be able to compete that day and face fines or suspensions. Any other racing licensee found to be alcoholically impaired or refusing the test “shall not be permitted to continue to perform in a licensed capacity on that day,” the proposed rule states.
The proposed rule gives the racing board further powers to impose other financial sanctions or mandatory therapy.
The agency also has a separate proposed rule affecting harness tracks. Even though testing is already done at the facilities, officials say the new plan imposes a penalty for refusing to take a breathalyzer and expands the pool of people who can be tested beyond harness drivers.
Diamond said the program would have little cost to the state, other than the purchase of a small number of breathalyzer devices. “Our inspectors will do it, and they are already at the track,” he said.