Indiana Backstretch Integrity Plan is Reviewed

A program designed to increase security at racetracks is being offered for public comment and could be approved by the Indiana Horse Racing Commission in March.

IHRC executive director Joe Gorajec released the proposal, called "Integrity '06," the week of Jan. 16. It's aimed at creating deterrents to pre-racing horses and increasing integrity in the state. The IHRC fielded comments on the plan Jan. 24 but took no action.

The program will cost about $770,000 to implement, officials said.

Gorajec categorized the state's effectiveness in deterring the administration of unauthorized medication on race days as "dead center, middle of the pack," and said the state has an obligation to the public to promote integrity.

Late last year in Indiana, there were several positives for trace levels of a metabolite of cocaine. Horsemen contend they were cases of environmental contamination, and the penalties were too harsh.

"This is not a testing issue, it's a security issue," Gorajec said of the "Integrity '06" plan. "It's not just an issue in Indiana, it is industry wide. The proposal that I bring forth says we do have a problem and we have an obligation to solve it. Surely we can come up with a way to ensure the public that horses racing each day are not getting any unauthorized medications outside our rules."

The proposal is comprised of four elements. The first involves both Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs increasing the number of security guards present in the stable area. IHRC staff also recommends that each track be responsible for identifying horses slated to race on a given day, as well as requiring ship-ins to arrive earlier on race day.

Second, a series of initiatives regarding veterinarian practices have been outlined. The initiatives would result in closer monitoring of veterinarians, as well as requiring medication reports on horses both on and off the grounds. It would also make veterinarians responsible for the actions of their employees.

In the proposal, practicing veterinarians would be escorted by track employees during Salix administrations. Horsemen would be prohibited from using veterinarians who are suspended, excluded, or ineligible for licensure.

The third element calls for both pari-mutuel tracks to assume the cost of the state's blood-gas ("milkshake") testing program. Currently, the IHRC assumes the cost.

Finally, the commission staff recommends both tracks be required to participate in the Association of Racing Commissioners International's national wagering monitoring system, scheduled to become operational this year. Costs to participate include a one-time $35,000 configuration fee (per hub), with subsequent annual cost, based on total in-state pari-mutuel handle, estimated at $46,750.

To fund the proposed integrity program, IHRC staff has recommended designating 3% (about $810,000 each year) of the riverboat casino admission tax revenue allocated to the racing industry as the funding mechanism for the new measures. In 2005, $27,083,893 was distributed to the racing industry from casino admission receipts.

Representatives of Hoosier Park and Indiana voiced support for integrity but said they needed time to review the proposal. Two members of the Indiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association board of directors raised concern over the cost and additional hardships placed on horsemen.

"You can put all the scrutiny in there you want--people will still find a way around it," board member Wendy Brown said of the initiatives. "We need every dollar we can get for purses."

"I'm not totally opposed to everything, I'm opposed to additional hardships placed on horsemen," said Dennis Moore, also an HBPA board member and Thoroughbred owner. "If Indiana places too many rules and regulations on horsemen, they're going to stay away."

The IHRC will accept written input on "Integrity '06" in its current form until Feb. 21. A proposed set of rules could come one week later, with adoption possible March 7. Hoosier Park for harness racing April 1, and Indiana Downs for Thoroughbred racing April 21.