The Breeders’ Cup, Thoroughbred racing’s world championships, is taking a hard line on anabolic steroids but it isn’t clear what final impact new rules announced on Friday can have.
The organization said it will ban for one year any trainer with a horse that tests positive for steroids after a championship race; three violations will result in a lifetime ban from championship races.
Breeders’ Cup, which is headquartered with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association in Lexington, also wants to force states and tracks to play by the same rules if they want any of about $6 million in purse money for affiliated races.
But it is uncertain what, if any, enforcement action Breeders’ Cup could take. A trainer can appeal a “positive” drug test and that challenge could drag out through the next year’s races. Until a drug ruling is resolved, trainers generally can keep racing.
“The legal process has to work itself out,” confirmed Jim Gluckson, Breeders’ Cup spokesman. He said they are not prepared to say they would stop someone with an unresolved drug positive from racing.
In addition to its annual championships, the Breeders’ Cup partially funds about 120 stakes and more than 50 challenge events in the U.S. and Canada. Horses that win challenge events automatically qualify for championship races. Kentucky tracks host several of both types of races.
The announcement was timed to give trainers an opportunity to make sure their horses will test clean before this year’s Breeders’ Cup.
And states need time to implement new regulations.
This year the Breeders’ Cup World Championships are Oct. 24-25 at Santa Anita Park in California. The races move from state to state and have been held most often at Churchill Downs, which is under consideration for 2010 again.
Kentucky is drafting new steroids rules, said Lisa Underwood, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, from New York, where the Association of Racing Commissioners International is meeting.
“We applaud the Breeders’ Cup for deciding to attach strong penalties to anabolic steroids uses,” Underwood said. A recommendation is likely to come before the state’s advisory drug council shortly, she said.
Breeders’ Cup’s move comes amid controversy over medication use and high-profile fatal breakdowns. Several Thoroughbred racing bodies have announced policy changes or are considering them. Two weeks ago, the California Horse Racing Board adopted a regulation to ban steroids in that state.
Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown won while on steroids, according to his trainer, Rick Dutrow. Asked this week what he would do about racing in California, Dutrow said, the new rule is “not really a big deal or an issue for us.”
Big Brown is racing Sunday for the first time since his last-place Belmont finish.
“I really didn’t even know what they’re doing out there but if you’re not allowed to do Winstrol out there, I’ll find out when the time comes,” Dutrow said. “Whatever the rules are in the state, we’re going to play by the rules.”
The Jockey Club, the industry’s record-keeping body, in June recommended banning steroids. On Friday, California began enforcing its ban on the steroids testosterone, boldenone, nandrolone, and stanozolol.
The new Breeders’ Cup policy attempts to give the industry some regulatory leverage. Racing is regulated by individual states so no national organization has enforcement authority.
“The Breeders’ Cup board believes it’s crucial that we take a leadership role in eliminating anabolic steroids from our sport,” said chairman Bill Farish of Lane’s End Farm, in the news release. “We encourage each racetrack and racing jurisdiction to move swiftly in enacting these much-needed regulations.”
Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the NTRA, said in a statement that Friday’s reforms “represent important steps in the implementation of national equine health and safety initiatives.”
This is the first time horses in the Breeders’ Cup championship races will be tested afterward for steroids, which presently are legal in most U.S. jurisdictions, including Kentucky, although they have long been banned overseas.
The first four finishers in all 14 races, as well as at least one random finisher will be tested. Violators face suspensions and forfeit all purse money.
The organization will also conduct out-of-competition testing for blood doping agents 10 days before the races, something that was first done last year at Monmouth Park in New Jersey.
The official policy adopted Friday by the Breeders’ Cup:
Effective with the 2008 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, for any horse participating in a World Championships race that is found to have violated the steroid rule in effect where the race is conducted, in addition to any penalties imposed by the racing regulatory agency in the jurisdiction, the following sanctions shall be imposed:
(i) the horse shall be disqualified to last in the race and any purse earned by the horse shall be forfeited and redistributed in accordance with the revised order of finish;
(ii) in the event of a first violation of the steroid rules in a World Championships race, the horse’s trainer and all horses directly or indirectly in such trainer’s care shall be ineligible to participate in the World Championships races conducted in the year immediately following the final determination that such trainer’s horse violated the steroid rules;
(iii) in the event of a second violation of the steroid rules in a World Championships race, the horse’s trainer and all horses directly or indirectly in such trainer’s care shall be ineligible to participate in the World Championships races conducted in the two years immediately following the final determination that such trainer’s horse violated the steroid rules;
(iv) in the event of a third violation of the steroid rules in a World Championships race, the horse’s trainer and all horses directly or indirectly in such trainer’s care shall be ineligible to participate in all World Championships races conducted for the remainder of such trainer’s life following the final determination that such trainer’s horse violated the steroid rules.
Effective January 1, 2009, it shall be the policy of Breeders’ Cup Limited to enter agreements with race tracks or racing associations for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Breeders’ Cup Challenge Races and Breeders’ Cup Stakes Races only in jurisdictions that have in place, either by executive order, administrative regulation or statute, rules governing the use of anabolic steroids in horses substantially similar, in form and substance, to the model steroid rules of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (“RCI”).
In the event a race track or racing association is located in a jurisdiction without an executive order, administrative regulation or statute substantially similar in form and substance to the RCI model steroid rules, Breeders’ Cup Limited may, in its discretion, enter an agreement for the World Championships, Challenge Races or Breeders’ Cup Stakes Races with a race track or racing association if such race track or racing association has in place a house rule substantially similar in form and substance to the RCI model steroid rules.