The Indiana Horse Racing Commission has adopted 21 emergency regulations that make up a sweeping integrity initiative for horse racing in the state.
The commission's March 8 vote to adopt the regulations came six weeks after executive director Joe Gorajec outlined his "Integrity '06" program. Many discussions and debates took place since the program was first offered in January.
"I don't think that you will ever agree on every aspect," racing commission chair Sarah McNaught said. "These proposals look nothing like what we started out with in December and January. My hope is that Indiana can be part of the solution that ails our sport. Let's keep the horses and their welfare at the top of the list."
The crux of Integrity '06 is to improve security and prevent the administration of illegal race-day medications. The new rules call for increased security presence in the barn area at both Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs; require that horses scheduled to race are identified with signage; and require veterinarians to be escorted. The program will cost less than the $800,000 a year originally proposed.
Here are some highlights of the program:
--All horses must be identified with signs at the entrance of their stalls to be posted by 9 a.m. on the day of the race.
--Each track will hire three roving security guards to patrol the barn area from 9 a.m. until the horses in the last race leave for the paddock.
--Each person licensed as an owner must consent to the release of any required information regarding the medication, care, and/or treatment of a horse by a veterinarian.
--All Thoroughbreds are required to be on the grounds at least five hours prior to the start of their respective races. Standardbreds receiving Salix must be on the grounds four hours and 15 minutes prior to their respective races, and all horses must report to the detention barn three hours prior.
--A security guard or track employee will be present for the drawing and administration of Salix from a factory-sealed bottle.
--Veterinarians possessing pre-drawn syringes must also possess the partially filled bottle from which the substance was drawn.
--Any veterinarian found with an unlabeled, mislabeled, incompletely labeled, or unauthorized drug, substance, or medication will be required to pay for the testing of said item.
--Veterinarians that have contact with horses within 24 hours of a race, outside of the administration of Salix, must contact stewards or track personnel.
While horsemen and industry representatives offered comments on nearly all of the 21 emergency rules adopted, the biggest item of contention was funding. While the proposal had been adjusted from utilizing a 3% share of riverboat casino admission tax revenue to fund Integrity '06 to only 2% of the estimated $27-million annual subsidy, industry groups still objected to the $540,000 per-year cost. The most significant expense--about two-thirds of the total, Gorajec said--will be the additional security guards at each track.
The racing commission will reallocate riverboat casino admission tax revenue to pay for the program. The money will come from slight reductions in breed development and purses for Thoroughbred, Standardbred, and Quarter Horse racing, as well as a contribution from the two tracks.
Still, horsemen had concerns.
"For all this money, it's not going to stop someone from giving something orally," said Wendi Brown, a member of the Indiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association board of directors.
Others argued the rules currently in place were stringent enough, and there is no "pressing need" to implement some of the changes. Gorajec, however, noted two veterinarians had been prosecuted for race-day violations.
"The pressing need is not felt by them," Indiana HBPA attorney J.D. Lux told the racing commission. "They think there is a good track record in Indiana. Enforcement of current rules and regulations would be enough."
Others argued unsuccessfully that the riverboat casino subsidy was to be used for purses, promotions, and routine operations. When Gorajec framed Integrity '06 as a departure from the industry norm, they interpreted it as anything but routine racetrack operations.
"It's hard for me to reconcile that with the concept of routine operations," Indiana Standardbred Association attorney Roger Young said.
McNaught said each industry stakeholder that currently receives casino revenue is bearing the cost equally. She also noted Indiana's racing industry has received more than $220 million in subsidies since 1995.
"No other state in the nation has this kind of funding," she said.
In the end, Gorajec called the new policies a "significant step forward." Commissioner Alan Armstrong compared the proactive measures to the current drug-related turmoil in professional baseball.
"Just look at our national pastime," he said. "Our heroes aren't our heroes anymore. I just don't think racing can afford that."