Things That Make You Go

The July 12 congressional hearing on racehorse medication in Washington, D.C., didn't determine any equine drug policy, but it did show why the industry struggles to get things right and how lawmakers and others have little grasp on how the industry works. Here are some of things that were said:

Sen. Tom Udall: "Chronic doping continues unabated."

The statement isn't based in fact. "Doping" refers to use of illegal drugs that have no place in a racehorse's system, and regulatory statistics indicate doping is rare.

Ed Martin of the Association of Racing Commissioners International: "This is an issue we believe is not adequately understood by racing fans or the general public."

This is true. So why doesn't the industry educate the public, and in some cases the media, rather than allow them to believe and report untruths?

Kent Stirling of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association: "Lasix is not performance-enhancing. On the other hand, blood in the lungs does make horses run slower."

Dr. Sheila Lyons, founder of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation: "This drug has been found to have performance-enhancing effects on racehorses."

So which is it? Maybe both? Isn't it time to put this argument to rest with comprehensive North American-based research and move on to legitimate reform?

Dr. Sheila Lyons: "I would like to see every horse in every race tested."

She must be out of touch with the Thoroughbred industry's acknowledgment that fewer, more targeted tests are the best option for enforcement and would maximize financial investment in testing as stated in the revisited McKinsey Report.

Jim Gagliano, president of The Jockey Club: "The bill's definition of 'performance-enhancing drug' is extremely vague and is overly broad, encompassing almost anything, and seeking the technically impossible 'zero tolerance.' "

This is a widely accepted view of the proposed Interstate Horse Racing Improvement Act, which begs the question: Who the heck writes this legislation, where do they get their information, and do they have a clue?

Jeff Gural, operator of The Meadowlands: "There have been a few in harness racing, but we don't know if 'beards' front for them. It's rare, and in most cases they surface somewhere else or their girlfriend becomes the trainer."

This was in response to a question about how many harness racing trainers have been permanently banned; the girlfriend scenario actually has happened on several occasions, funny as it sounds.

Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor International: "One would have to look in the (harness racing) hall of fame."

This was in response to Gural's comments. I guess everyone inducted into other halls of fame is or was clean? Prove it.

Marc Paulhus, retired executive: "Action was desperately needed because horse racing had become the single most dangerous sport in America, with horses snapping legs and dying nearly every day before horrified fans on racetracks across America.”

Marc Paulhus: "The fact that horses are dying on American racetracks in record numbers is common knowledge."

These comments--testimony before Congress--from the former vice president of the Humane Society of the United States are inflammatory and false. The only thing worse, and probably scarier, than this misrepresentation is the fact no lawmakers called him out on it. Of course, there were hardly any lawmakers at the hearing.

Barry Irwin: "He's a candidate for someone I'd like to wave goodbye to."

This was said during a discussion of trainer Doug O'Neil, the retired I'll Have Another, and whether some trainers should be kicked out of the business. O'Neill has become the industry's whipping boy, and the target of such cheap shots that do nothing to further racing.

Jeff Gural: "The thing that would solve this is if we took some of these trainers out in handcuffs."

He's probably right. But doing it isn't that easy, as Gural also said: "I have more ability to police than the (New Jersey) State Police does." That sounds like a major impediment to progress.

Sen. Tom Udall: "I don't buy the resources argument. There is plenty of money (to put toward drug testing and law enforcement)."

He said this in response to comments from Martin of RCI that money for regulation is tight. There might be money for it, but the racing industry has blown a lot of money, and surely Udall realizes Congress has, too. Just look at the national deficit.

Jeff Gural: "We do almost everything wrong."

That's probably the case--and also the real reason why two Congressional hearings that should be needless have been held this year.

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