Uniform Rules Needed

By Laura de Seroux
In regard to uniform national medication rules, at this point it looks like Kentucky is leading the way in establishing the tough policies we need to clean up racing.

Because it remains a state-by-state decision, perhaps in order to get each state to have the same set of rules, we should look to our basic governmental setup.

We have federal and state governments and the writing is on the wall that racing needs to be democratized. Under the current system, each state regulates its own racing with an appointed board under the jurisdiction of each state's government. These boards, in actuality, have become almost a sovereign state. Some violations and infractions have been dealt with clandestinely and quietly, with deals made that were never made public and fines levied instead of suspensions. This has been done with the misguided intention of protecting racing from bad publicity.

Rule violations that actually constitute race-fixing and, therefore, are felonies have flown under the radar of the feds. This sovereign practice hasn't protected racing at all. The very opposite has occurred, and an enormous pressure cooker has been created; the lid is going to blow off eventually.

Centralization is needed. Each state has an executive director of its board or commission. These directors could form a congress that should also include representatives or presidents of the various racing consortiums. The congress would meet regularly and all the issues of racing would become immediately centralized. Much the same as the federal government has established national sentencing guidelines, this congress could expedite the process that has been recognized as crucial for the future of American racing. The congress would draft the National Rules and Regulations of racing with all racing states and racing consortiums present. Future issues could be dealt with by one national body, and it seems logical that this process could work very efficiently and much faster than any process that is on the docket at this time.

There are many issues racing needs to face in order to clean up its image and do more to protect horses. A national congress would be the forum to which all concerns could be addressed with uniformity. Racing needs to address the issue of steroid use, the abusive use of Salix on horses that have never bled (2-year-olds in particular), the freezing of test samples so that those ahead of the testing are brought to judgment at a later date, and 24-hour detention barns. Maybe the only solution is no pre-race medication at all.

The United States is the only racing jurisdiction in the world that allows pre-race medications, Salix, and anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are banned in all American sports because they are classified as performance enhancing. Why has this issue not been addressed?

The argument was made for permissive medications in the '70s when racing calendars were expanded for nearly year-round racing. The proponents of medication argued the horses needed help to race year-round. Well, the truth is that it's the tracks that are operating on year-round circuits and it's rare that a horse is able to race all year without needing a break.

In fact, studies have shown that field sizes have actually decreased since the rules were changed to allow race-day medication. So the original argument for permissive medications has a huge hole in it.

Permissive medication has allowed trainers to push the envelope and I believe it has contributed to the increase of fatal breakdowns. Fatal breakdowns are the worst advertisement for racing, and many who witness them never return. They also are a risk to the lives of jockeys.

If pre-race medication was abolished, would it be so bad? Maybe the times would be slower, the sounder horses would win, and lo and behold the horses going to stud just might strengthen the breed again.

We all know the breed has been weakened since the legalization of Bute and Salix. Horses just aren't as tough and sound as they used to be. Bleeders and unsound types have been able to perform and have gone to stud that perhaps shouldn't have. At least 98% of all starters race on Salix--are they all bleeders?

Maybe coming into alignment with the rest of the racing world would not be a bad thing.