Enough Already - By Jacqueline Duke

 (Originally published in the February 26, 2011 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.

By Jacqueline Duke

By Jackie Duke
Ed Martin has said what many in racing have long wished they could—Enough is enough.

The president of Racing Commissioners International has asked New York racing regulators to review trainer Richard Dutrow Jr.’s license with the aim of revoking it.

Martin’s request comes in response to Dutrow’s most recent suspensions. New York stewards gave the trainer 90 days for a positive drug test on a winning horse and for possession of hypodermic needles in his barn. Dutrow has appealed. His attorney has called Martin’s request “unfounded and irresponsible.”

“At some point, an individual who continues to violate the rules of racing forfeits through his own actions the ability to be in the game,” Martin wrote. “At some point, enough is enough.”

Racing regulators have sanctioned Dutrow at least 64 times for violations in nine different states at 15 different racetracks since 1979, according to Martin. Dutrow’s cavalier attitude doesn’t help. It wasn’t just his admission that he used anabolic steroids, then legal, on 2008 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Preakness Stakes (both gr. I) winner Big Brown, but his flippancy that caused folks to cringe.

“I’ve had so many different suspensions—half of them I deserved; half of them I didn’t,” Dutrow told reporters in 2008. “So the only thing I need is to be allowed to work around the horses, so when they give me back my license after a suspension, man, I’m good to go. And even when I’m on my suspension, I’m going to try and sneak in there and look at my horses. What am I going to tell you, man? I’m a horseman.”

Big Brown on steroids was among the troubling issues that caught the attention of Congress, which grilled racing leaders on the sport’s perceived problems after Eight Belles broke down after the 2008 Derby. Anabolic steroids subsequently were banned in most racing jurisdictions.

Plenty of people in racing bemoan a system that allows certain trainers to rack up innumerable infractions, continue to do business while suspended, and then essentially receive a slap if found guilty. Granted, every citizen deserves due process, but in racing this right can take on ludicrous proportions. Martin’s call for action has resonated.

“A pattern of reckless or intentional disregard for the rules of racing is sufficient grounds on which to base a review of any trainer’s license,” said Alex Waldrop, president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. “Such a disregard may warrant a harsher penalty or, in severe cases, a license revocation. We urge the New York State Wagering and Racing Board to deal with the situation as stringently as it deems appropriate and legal.”

The board of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association is increasingly frustrated by penalties that “are not severe or significant enough to deter people. And when you get a slap on the wrist, for a lot of people it’s just the cost of doing business,” said Dan Metzger, the TOBA president.

While Metzger and others agree medication policies and testing procedures have improved, the penalty phase needs to catch up. “There essentially has to be pain felt for the offenses,” Metzger said.

Other sports impose clear-cut penalties for drug and other violations. In Major League Baseball a third positive for steroids results in a lifetime suspension. Same for the NHL. The NFL has an intervention program while also imposing stiff penalties on players who test positive for banned substances. A first offense earns a four-game suspension; a third offense, and the player sits out for 12 months. The NBA doesn’t cut much slack either. It recently handed Memphis Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo a 10-game suspension even though he claims his positive resulted from an energy drink he bought at a gas station.

How would Thoroughbred racing react if held to the standards demanded by the Federation Equestre International (FEI)? The organization has a zero-tolerance policy, and no one ever wins an appeal. At the 2008 Olympics five riders were disqualified, including American Courtney King-Dye, whose horse tested positive for a small amount of the anti-inflammatory felbinac, which is commonly used in China to relieve arthritis pain in humans. It is widely thought accidental contamination caused the positive. Nevertheless, King-Dye’s disqualification stood as she could not prove how the contamination occurred. Draconian maybe, but effective. Consider that no horse tested positive at the recent World Equestrian Games, conducted under the same FEI rules.

As racing inches toward uniformity, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium proposes rules that would impose greater penalties on repeat offenders. The consortium also wants to extend penalties to veterinarians and possibly owners. But executive director Dr. Scot Waterman cautions that regulators can’t just apply blanket penalties. “I think each violation is unique and is going to have a unique set of circumstances, and the penalty needs to fit those circumstances,” he said.

Few would disagree that those who mockingly and regularly violate the rules of racing should receive the highest possible penalty.

21 Comments

Leave a Comment:

goodwin

Amen! I could not agree more, and if racing wants to attract new fans, they need to clean up their act. Why on Earth does the sport need a trainer using cobra venom on his horses - let the man go sell insurance! Unfortunately, horses such as Big Brown and Curlin, who both were not quite as impressive race horses after they were taken off steroids, then go on to breed many mares. Does this build a better breed?

There are many repercussions for letting the cheaters continue. Racing has many fine trainers with integrity. Don't make them have to compete with the scumbags.

23 Feb 2011 11:10 AM
Mike Relva

I couldn't agree more with you,they need to stop playing and send a message that this has got to stop,period!

23 Feb 2011 11:49 AM
gotigers1948

It seems to me that racing is not willing to expose what I see as rampant use of performance enhancing medications, especially among some of the more prominent trainers. Apparently, the need to protect what little integrity is left in racing is primarily based on dollars rather than integrity.  I don't think the industry believes it can survive the revelation of some of its premier celebrity trainers being exposed.  This point is easily supported by the absence of such articles in the mainstream racing press, as well as television racing programing that avoids these issues almost totally.

While Mr. Dutrow has been the poster boy for "rules violations," I do believe that if he gets "squeezed" to much by the powers that be, he could bring down some

very glorified colleagues with him.  They don't want that.  Thus, the leniency question is probably answered.

How about the Life at Ten inquiry?  The horse wasn't tested post race because the number of horses waiting to be tested was to great?  In Kentucky of all places!  Still no report from KHRC.  

In closing, all of this effects everyone involved in racing, especially the bettor.

I bet my first horse in 1962 (Decidedly in the Kentucky Derby, in the mud) and  reluctantly remain a true fan.

23 Feb 2011 11:52 AM
EQUINE PAPARAZZI

It is just nuts to even suggest banning Dutrow for life. Racing is one of the most forgiving sports ever. A great example would be Pat Valenzuela.

Banish Dutrow for a year, maybe two, but suggesting a lifetime ban seems hysterical. Comparing horse racing drug limits to dressage no-tolerance rules also seemed odd to me. Two totally different sports, requiring the athletes to have totally different skill sets, with each sport having its unique injuries. Maybe i'm dense but i just didn't see the point of bringing up a sport that allows the possibility of contaminated samples to be an un-appealable issue. That is just not due process and that would never fly in horse racing.

This is a tempest in a teapot.

23 Feb 2011 12:13 PM
Mokey

Enough is Enough. Just because they have "big" pocketbooks, the horse should be first!Trainer of the year is a joke - two of that trainer's top horses finshed dead last! Want fans and less problems - keep the rules the same for all and don't let these "big" name trainers kill the horses and the sport.

23 Feb 2011 12:26 PM
Cyd

Too many times...but I really blame the industry for allowing any drugs. They contribute greatly to the catastrophic break downs. If the horse is on drugs you will not know if it is hurting. If the horse cannot run without lasix it should not be running. If you look at the entries on any given day you will see 90% of the horses running on lasix. I guess every horse foaled is a bleeder!? Stop the drugging!!! Throw out the trainers, vets, owners that get caught!

23 Feb 2011 12:33 PM
MikeM

 The infamous Dick Dutrow is no celebrity. It makes no sense for racing jurisditions to continue to allow this repeat offender to train. Its time to clean up the sport and ban trainers like Dick Dutrow. Maybe a stiff penalty for owners who patronize these crooks will help.

23 Feb 2011 2:14 PM
fb0252

disagree.  the OP is an extension of mandatory sentencing shown to work so questionably in another world. let's fry the Life At Ten crowd, even though everyone involved in the backstretch knows that everyone there did all they could. what's needed is rule changes that differentiate minor inadvertent violations from criminal behavior. Horse racing is stabbing itself in the foot by making a BFD over every trainer inadvertence.  It also seems fairly easy that when suspensions are appropriate that the penalty should have some bite.

23 Feb 2011 2:19 PM
needler in Virginia

Well said, Ms Duke. WELL SAID. The old adage of "where there's smoke, there's fire" rings loud and clear over Dutrow's head. Loads of enquiries and suspensions?  Why so many for him, and so very few for others? Could we be seeing a pattern here? Is it possible that some trainers can win Derbies, etc WITHOUT drugs?? Clearly Dutrow couldn't, and WE ALL cringed when he popped off about the "monthly steroid shots" that "all" his horses got.... AARRGGHH! Talk about a rotten face for racing. Nah, enough already.....fine him, suspend him, shut him up, drum  him out and CLEAN UP RACING, or someone else will either clean it up or close it down entirely.........

Cheers and safe trips to almost everyone.

23 Feb 2011 3:44 PM
JohnGalt1

Doesn't he have a cell phone?  And won't all the horses he trains run under the name of his assistant trainer?

So when is a suspension--for all trainers found guilty--going to have real teeth?

23 Feb 2011 4:41 PM
mike pearson

As I have been saying for years ,The race tracks themselves are going to have to start banning from their grounds  people that keep breaking rules and causeing the public to distrust the sport if they want to stay in business.

24 Feb 2011 4:27 AM
SophieK

Enough is enough but lets not forget the Life at Ten story that is still ongoing and nobody wants to point their finger at the trainer in that scenario now do they? Hes squeaky clean right? There are so many crooked trainers out there that banning Dutrow would be singling out a scapegoat. Not good for racing at all. If they are going to ban Dutrow they need to do ban Biancone as well. Seriously!!

24 Feb 2011 8:07 AM
LouAnn Cingel of Union, Missouri

punishment should be given to those who have repeatedly violated rules and regulations-no ands if or buts about it-it is as simple as that!!

24 Feb 2011 9:41 AM
Deb

This guy does not love horses, he loves the show light that comes from owning a winning horse no matter what he has to do to get the horse there.  

24 Feb 2011 10:55 AM
June O'Neill

While I agree to a certain extent, I think it is important to understand that the trainer is accountable for all problems.  If the vet gives the horse the wrong thing...it is the trainer that is held accountable.  If the horse injests something not allowed or if someone gives the horse a restricted substance, again it all falls on the trainer.  I knew a horse that loved chocolate donuts.  Too much chocolate will test.  Many of the natural additives have unmeasured amounts of restricted substances.  If we are holding the trainer accountable for ALL problems then we must allow some leeway in most cases.  However, the unrepentent nature of Mr Dutrow makes him appear guilty.

24 Feb 2011 2:10 PM
Convene

Definitely enough! As was stated, his cavalier attitude to penalties shows he sees nothing wrong with what he has been doing. Contamination might occur in a few cases - but in 64? Come on! The FEI takes the issue very seriously and that's appropriate. If contamination is so common, maybe we need changes in where horses can be while being treated for illnesses or injuries and perhaps change how (or who) actually handles the medications used. Drugs aren't like viruses/bacteria. They are harder to transmit from horse to horse. Maybe more use of clothing and gloves, disposed of before returning to the main barn area, would help eliminate the problem. I know it takes time and time is money, but even perception of illegal drug use gives a message of our sport we don't need to be giving. I'm not sure a lifetime ban is appropriate in this case - not yet, at least - but a good long one (like the one Patrick Biancone received) might help change Mr. Dutrow's attitude.

24 Feb 2011 8:35 PM
Lmaris

When the trainer's stable still profits during the "suspension", the sanctions are a joke.  In any other real sport, a serial substance policy offender like Dutrow would be long gone.

In rugby, the penalty for a FIRST banned substance positive for performance enhancing drugs carries penalties from 90 days (for an extremely limited number of minor meds) to 2 years (most of the banned are in this range.

Equine Paparazzi apparently misses the blatantly obvious distinction between a drug using jockey and administering meds to a horse.  The jockey is a human being deciding to take the drugs himself.  He has the choice of whether to take them or not.

The horse has no such choice in the matter.  The primary responsibility of the trainer is to protect the horse.  Dutrow, Mullens and others show they only care about the wins.

But if you're going to use PVal as an example, lets look at him. How long were his suspensions?  Longer than Dutrow's.  Why kid gloves with those in charge?

Give suspensions bite:  90 days for 1st, 180 days for 2nd, a year for 3rd.  Stable closed, no purses allowed.  That would encourage staff to keep it clean too.  

25 Feb 2011 8:42 AM
Stas Williams Jamaica W.I.

Suggestion,export Dutrow to England and let him train there for the summer.If he survives,bring him back and allow him to train.(IN ENGLAND THEY LOVE HORSES).

25 Feb 2011 10:13 PM
needler in Virginia

SophieK, BY ALL MEANS ban Biancone, too! I've got no problem AT ALL with banning repeat offenders. For that matter, a first time offense should be seriously examined as well. It isn't as if these guys haven't ever heard of drugs or sponging or milk shakes or any of the other things people have done over the years. THIS IS NOT NEW, nor will it ever be gone until all these guys roll over and croak, or at the very least be banned for life. If the betting public is going to trust the tracks, then the tracks have to earn that trust. As far as I can tell, those attempts have been superficial and palliative, at best. I think trainers and tracks suppose we will be satisfied with the "appearance" of integrity. I, for one, am not. Either clean it up or quit entirely. There are multiple ways the public can bet money; people go to casinos KNOWING the odds are always with the house, but they still go......mostly because, even with lousy odds, you MIGHT win. It has been known to happen, after all. With a perception, never mind proof, that racing is crooked, even in the lofty halls of a "big time trainer's" barn, all of racing loses whatever integrity it might have had. Believe me, with casinos springing up like weeds, online poker (and any other game of chance known to man), there are hundreds of ways to bet your money with more trust than racing is presenting these days. I can think of five or six trainers (now how tragic is THAT?) that would no more light up a horse than they would eat their children. The rest, I'm not so sure about. Until racing gets it and gets it good, we will have to watch as racing shoots itself in the foot AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN.

I'm with Ms Duke.........ENOUGH ALREADY!! Bet you couldn't have guessed how I feel, could you????????

And, by the way, everyone PLEASE go out and get Jim Squires' book HEADLESS HORSEMEN for a really good, long look at racing and drugs......it is a real eye-opener, more's the pity.

Cheers and safe trips to almost everyone.

25 Feb 2011 10:25 PM
Red Justinn

Ms. Duke, love to have your and Ed Martin get this mess out into the open or at least off your chests, but don't you still feel unfulfilled? You, I, and others spend time thinking and writing about this and other problems that never seem to change. Can anyone explain what is the motivation for these racing regulators that keeps them from being more serious and severe in their punishment? Dutrow says that "I'm a Horseman," but it seems that he is not a Horseman as we define it. Some people though very competitive otherwise feel they have to take an edge to stay on top. "I am the greatest" syndrome keep urging them on  The public and racing officials are not part of their scams but perpetuate them through their inaction.

28 Feb 2011 4:10 PM
Craig, Silver Spring

Any one remember IEAH saying they would drop any trainer using drugs?  Then they gave an exception for Dutrow with Big Brown.  Dutrow is their number one trainer, and he and Patrick Biancone are two of the worse drug offenders in the country.  Both of them should be banned from the sport and IEAH should be ashamed.

04 Mar 2011 6:48 AM

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