In racing's ongoing drug war, the fiercest battles are being fought on the backstretch. For example, accusations by Southern California trainers against their peers prompted an anonymous donor and the Oak Tree Racing Association to fund a random testing program for "milkshakes," the loading of bicarbonates through a stomach tube to prevent fatigue. The purpose of the program, which currently has no sanctions in the event of positive tests, is to determine whether or not there really is a problem.
The Delaware Gaming and Pari-Mutuel Commission is said to be considering a new program that literally will allow a trainer to put his money where his mouth is when he suspects a fellow trainer is cheating.
The so-called medication protest rule, already in place within Delaware's Standardbred industry, would allow an owner or trainer with a starter in a race to have an opponent's horse in the same race tested for illegal drugs. The person calling for the test will have to put up $1,000, as they do in the Standardbred protest program, and file the protest within 10 minutes of the race's completion.
Proponents of this unique "gotcha" program are hoping to take the Thoroughbred version one step further than the Standardbred industry has been able to do. They want to send the test sample to the lab of their choice, and not just a lab accredited by the state commission.
This would allow for possible detection of designer drugs, the kind used illegally in human sports, which racing labs are not equipped to find.
If this proposal is approved, several scenarios could emerge.
First, and some say most likely, it will be much ado about nothing. Illegal drugs will not be detected, and protests will be rare. Second, illegal drugs may be discovered, particularly if the protester can use some of the sophisticated labs used for track and field and other sports.
Third, the program will be a great deterrent, prompting possible cheaters to leave Delaware or stop juicing their horses.
Everyone should adopt this program. Is there a downside? ETHICS FOR AGENTS
I expected last week's column
, which criticized the lack of any code of ethics or regulation concerning bloodstock agents in this country (April 3 issue, page 1953), would not sit well with some people. But the last group I intended to rankle were the people who fund and operate the ownership recruitment program The Greatest Game
: the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association
, National Thoroughbred Racing Association
, and Keeneland
The article failed to mention The Greatest Game's code of ethics and the requirement for participating agents to agree, in writing, and to adhere to them. To date, 106 agents have been approved by a three-member panel and signed the code of ethics agreement. The agents pay $250 to be eligible for a lottery drawing when new owners seek bloodstock assistance. Three agents are drawn for every owner, who can pick one or ask for a new draw.
Among other things, The Greatest Game's code of ethics defines the role of agent, requires full disclosure and a written accounting of fees the agent receives, insists that an agent disclose all possible conflicts of interest in any transaction and prohibits the agent from acquiring any interest in a horse that would be in conflict with his client's best interest, unless a written agreement permits the action.
Any violation could result in the agent being disqualified from the program, although The Greatest Game's president, Gay Fisher, said the name of the agent would not be disclosed if he is barred. That's too bad.
This is a step in the right direction for those just entering the exciting world of Thoroughbred ownership, but The Greatest Game unfortunately cannot protect those who already are in the game and unknowingly may be hooked up with an agent who subscribes to his own code of ethics.