Virginia Commission Tough on Steroids, Easy on Apprentice

Members of the Virginia Racing Commission acted on a wide range of issues at their monthly meeting May 16, including the implementation of testing for race day steroid levels and the reversion of an apprentice jockey license.

The commission approved new regulations for testing of anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroid regulations have been in place since Virginia’s rebirth of live racing in 1997, however a means of testing to enforce that policy had not been implemented.  Under an agreement at Iowa State University, commissioners believe they now have a means to perform testing for the upcoming meet at Colonial Downs.  According to a commission press release, the procedures would be consistent with the model rules that RCI seeks for national compliance by Jan. 1, 2008.

“There are some therapeutic reasons for using steroids, but they should not show up in the horse’s system on race day,” said Stan Bowker, executive director of the Virginia Racing Commission.

The model rules allow the use boldenone, stanozolol, nandrolone or testosterone individually, not in combination.

“We are moving to this new rule as the first step toward a national no anabolic steroid rule passed by the RCI membership,” said Peter Burnett, commission’s chairman. Burnett also serves as chairman of RCI.

“We expect to fully implement the national model rule in 2008 and hope all other members of RCI also will do so by 2008,” added Burnett.

Burnett also reported to the commission RCI’s model rules on the use of safety reins and toes grabs less than one-sixteenth of an inch.

In another matter, the commission deliberated on the issuance of an apprentice jockey’s license for Tom Foley.  Foley rides in steeplechase races and previously obtained a journeyman’s license in 1998 to ride in flat races at Colonial Downs.  According to Bowker, Foley was not aware that he could apply for an apprentice license in 1998 primarily due to his inability to make apprentice weights.  The Jockey's Guild submitted a letter in support of the issuance of an apprentice license for Foley.  Foley has been riding at Tampa Bay Downs this spring under a journeyman’s jockey license.

Foley, who has won four Thoroughbred races and earned $56,428 in his career, could ride with an apprentice weight allowance for one year or until he wins 40 races, whichever comes last.  He could be eligible for another year if he has not won 40 races in a year’s time.  As a steeplechase rider, he has won 69 times in 576 recognized steeplechase races and earned $1,748,066.