Jockey Club urges medication reforms in wake of PETA scandal

awincze@herald-leader.comMarch 28, 2014 

Officials with The Jockey Club reiterated Friday their stance that they may seek federal legislation to regulate Thoroughbred racing should major racing jurisdictions not move forward with the national medication reforms proposed by the organization.

In a lengthy statement released in the wake of allegations raised by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals against Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen last week, Jockey Club chairman Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps said that while "there is no doubt that some of those shown in the March 20 video deserve condemnation for their actions and their attitudes, representatives of states that have not adopted the national uniform medication program should also shoulder blame for the current state of affairs."

Following up on remarks he made at last year's 61st annual Jockey Club Round Table Conference in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Phipps went on to add that if major racing states have not implemented the national uniform medication program supported by The Jockey Club in time for this year's Round Table in August, it would reach out to federal lawmakers and "aggressively seek rapid implementation, including steps leading toward the elimination of all race-day medications."

The supported reforms that make up the national uniform medication program were first proposed in 2011 and encompass controlled therapeutic medications, prohibited substances, accredited labs and penalty guidelines for multiple medication violations. Phipps said in his statement that only four of the 38 states with racing — namely Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Virginia — have fully implemented the national uniform medication program.

In a statement released later Friday, Thoroughbred Horsemen's Associations chairman Alan Foreman took issue with Phipps' implication that the progress with the national uniform medication program has been slow.

"The uniform program was first announced by the Mid Atlantic states on April 1, 2013. Recognizing that implementation requires either state regulatory or, in some cases, legislative action, the Mid Atlantic announced that it would implement the reforms on January 1, 2014, or whenever a participating state's live racing commenced in 2014," Foreman said. "Since then, the effort to get this program adopted and implemented nationally began in the summer of 2013.

"When the industry determined that it would eliminate steroids from competition in 2008, the effort began with collective action by the Mid Atlantic states and took approximately 18 months to be achieved nationally. At the time, the industry was hailed for its ability to move swiftly and collectively to significantly change policy," Foreman continued. "We are a year from when the Mid Atlantic introduced the current reforms and nine months since the effort was embraced nationally. Some in the media today have questioned my recent public statements that all but four of the 38 racing states are in the process of adopting the program in light of Dinny's comments. I think everyone should know the status and progress of the reform program."

Foreman said the only four racing states not considering the reforms are Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Colorado and added that Kentucky joins California, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Minnesota, and Arizona among jurisdictions in the final adoption stage or preparing to commence implementation.

The idea of federal legislation has been floated in Thoroughbred racing for years, but has often met resistance from horsemen.

"Racing still has two or three times the approval rating that the U.S. Congress has so be careful what you ask for there," said trainer Rick Violette, president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and one of the foremost proponents for uniform medication. "It has no real traction. There would be huge push back if they had any traction."

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.

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