Olympic gold medalist Edwin Moses challenged Thoroughbred racing’s industry leaders to do some serious self-evaluation during the 63rd Annual Round Table Conference conducted by The Jockey Club.
Moses, who is now chairman of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, said in the 15 years of USADA’s existence, significant gains have been made in growing and improving anti-doping programs. One of those improvements has been in evaluating their effectiveness. USADA has developed a “matrix of effectiveness” and asked racing’s leaders to assess objectively whether the existing regulatory system in the U.S. meets these criteria:
1. Is the program independent and free of interference from outside interests? Moses said it is difficult—if not impossible—for a sport to promote and police itself.
2. Is there year-round, no-notice out-of-competition testing for advanced analysis for blood doping and for the use of substances such as human growth hormone? Being unpredictable is absolutely essential in testing. If all the testing happens in competition, then you are not being effective, according to Moses. “You have to be able to collect long-term data on an athlete to monitor that athlete’s own biological level over time. This assures that athletes cannot get away with using small doses of substances and avoid detection,” he said.
3. Is there an exhaustive list of prohibited substances that is publicly published and updated regularly? USADA evaluates its prohibited list annually.
4. Does the program implement the best legal and scientific policies and practices as they evolve, which must include adequate sanctions and due process? “If athletes don’t believe the rules are fair and equally applied, then the system breaks down and they distrust the anti-doping organization,” said Moses. “They need to be tough to deal with intentional dopers but fair to consider mitigating circumstances. It needs to be swift and cost-effective while getting to the truth.”
5. Is there an investment of significant time and money into scientific research for the detection of new doping substances and techniques? These are constantly evolving, and research is essential to catch sophisticated and well-funded cheaters, according to Moses.
6. Are there established partnerships with law enforcement to ensure that, in addition to holding athletes accountable, those who illegally manufacture, traffic, and distribute these dangerous drugs and who are typically outside a sport’s jurisdiction, are held accountable for their illegal behavior?
7. Are there significant investments and efforts made toward education? Moses refers to education as USADA’s most important tool. “We must supply athletes and their coaches, trainers, and support personnel with the information and education in order to be successful. We must empower them to make safe, ethical, and healthy choices,” he said. Education is provided through online tutorials, publications, in-house presentations, and by being readily accessible by phone or email.
Moses indicated that in his conversations with people around the country that Thoroughbred racing is falling short in several areas. It is time for action, he noted, and not just talk.
“Real change can happen,” Moses said. “Over the last 35 years I have had a front row seat to changes in the Olympic movement with anti-doping, and I can tell you that all the challenges and growing pains that inevitably come with fundamental change are worth it. It is worth it to protect the economic future of the sport and the health and safety of those who participate.”