Ogden Mills Phipps: The Thoroughbred Safety Committee continues to study a wide range of safety issues in this industry, and I would like to acknowledge the efforts of all of the members of the committee. They are diligent in their research and they give generously of their time. We all owe them a great deal of gratitude.
Stuart Janney will once again provide the update for us with an update and two more recommendations from the committee.
Stuart S. Janney III: Thank you, Dinny. Good morning.
The Thoroughbred Safety Committee was formed in the spring of 2008 as a standing committee of The Jockey Club.
At that time, we said that the committee would review every facet of equine health, including breeding practices, medication, the rules of racing and track surfaces — and it would provide recommended actions to the industry to improve the health and safety of Thoroughbreds.
To date the committee has issued 11 recommendations, as indicated on the screen.
One of these recommendations focused on participation in the Equine Injury Database and Dr. Parkin's presentation just a moment ago highlights the potential value of that database.
With each recommendation, the committee has discussed the issues fully with those most knowledgeable and looked to the best research to guide our decisions.
Last year at this meeting, we announced four new recommendations as noted, each of which has been considered, and in many cases, adopted within the industry.
There are a number of you here today from California, and we congratulate you on the recent passage of a new bute rule, which is in line with our recommendations. It was hard work, but worth it. Your horses and our sport are better off with this rule in place and we hope the remaining jurisdictions will follow your lead and adopt this rule by the June 1, 2012, target date set by the RMTC.
Progress in this business can be painfully incremental or just plain slow. Rulemaking alone can take months. Even during the 2008 industrywide effort to ban anabolic steroids, there were jurisdictions that lagged behind, as they followed their own regulatory path.
There are many people in this sport who've grown weary of the pace of change. They may wish for an all-powerful commissioner or even a federal solution.
But these problems are our problems, and they must be addressed by the industry itself.
Here are some issues we can confront. Today.
It is time to comprehensively reconsider all of the rules that govern medication within the horse. By this, I mean classifications, regulatory limits and penalties.
Focusing first on penalties, we have all read the recent flurry of media coverage and blog postings regarding the continued participation in our sport of individuals with multiple positive drug tests in horses under their care.
Placing to the side for the moment the so-called minor infractions often attributed to administration errors or failures to properly account for withdrawal times, this chart illustrates the distribution of multiple drug violations across four jurisdictions with year round racing from 2005 to 2010.
The text of the ruling indicated either the presence of multiple substances or quantities of a single substance that greatly exceeded the regulatory threshold.
Looking at the rules from the 30+ racing states, it's easy to see that a new measure of uniformity is needed. We have the science, and we have the precedents to do it.
As the debate about the use of race-day medication emerged this spring and the prospect of federal legislation arose, The Jockey Club team initiated conversations with other industry shareholders about these reformed medication rules.
We included in those formative meetings regulators, trainers, breeders, owners, vets, track operators and bettors.
Needless to say, each of the participants brought their own perspective. They also brought a commitment to the future of the game based upon the safety of the horse and rider. All of them agreed that our sport needs to be one of unimpeachable integrity.
Drafts of a new set of reformed racing medication rules were produced and redone. And redone again until we thought we got it right and that it could be endorsed by as broad a group as possible.
The reformed rules that we are proposing today accomplish the following:
- New categorization of medications
- More clearly defined regulatory limits
- Dramatically remodeled penalties
Matt Iuliano, The Jockey Club's executive director, has been leading this effort for The Jockey Club and he's going to share some details of the rules with us.
Matt F. Iuliano, Executive Vice President & Executive Director, The Jockey Club
Matt F. Iuliano: Thank you, Stuart. Good morning, everyone.
For the past several months, in collaboration with our industry partners — including Racing Medication and Testing Consortium board members Dr. Rick Arthur, Alan Foreman, Ed Martin and Andy Schweigardt as well as trusted scientific advisors Drs. Rick Sams, Scott Stanley, Mary Scollay and Tom David — we have been developing a new paradigm for medication rules in the United States.
All of us who worked on these reformed medication rules share a common belief that the health and safety of our athletes, and the integrity of our sport, should be at the center of all of our decisions.
For guidance, we drew upon the best national and international resources available, beginning with the successes of individual racing jurisdictions all the way through to the work of the Association of Racing Commissioners International and the RMTC.
We also reached out beyond our borders to our international colleagues, including the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities.
For the penalty sections, we drew upon the work of a special committee of the RMTC with one objective in mind: to develop a more powerful system of deterrents for participants in our sport who demonstrate a blatant disregard for the rules.
Whether through survey or through conversation, we know that our customers, our participants, our international colleagues and even members of our own federal government do not believe that our system of penalties provide adequate deterrence to cheaters.
So what are some of the features of the new reformed rules?
First, with input from our veterinary experts, we developed a simplified system of drug classifications to recognize medications of therapeutic value in all equine practices, not just at our racetracks.
Approximately 40 medications were included in this category of controlled therapeutic medications.
Everything else not on that list is prohibited across the board without exception!
Supporting the new drug classification system is a new penalty structure to provide for rapid acceleration of sanctions when behavior indicates a blatant disregard for the rules, regardless of whether prohibited substances or controlled therapeutic medications are involved.
Next, we have codified that all laboratories must operate to the same standards of precision as required by RMTC accreditation so a positive in one jurisdiction is a positive in all jurisdictions. This is exactly what Alan Foreman called for last year from this podium and we at The Jockey Club along with our colleagues in the RMTC have been working on this year.
And speaking of accreditation, we are calling for a new requirement, and that is for our testing labs to provide increased transparency into the results they obtain after sample analysis as well as the nature of the technology they employ and the detection capabilities that technology affords.
Next, the reformed medication rules require that all regulatory authorities consider accumulated violations from other jurisdictions when either licensing their participants or considering the level of penalty.
And while on the subject, the penalty structure calls for longer periods of time beyond just a simple year when measuring the number of cumulative violations to trigger stricter penalties.
Based upon the latest science, and supplemented with the practical thinking of some of the most experienced and knowledgeable scientists and regulators, the reformed racing medication rules also provide clear guidance to trainers, owners and veterinarians when making critical decisions of when therapy should end prior to competition beginning.
And, finally, just a few words about security. To realize the full benefit of any rules of competition, medications being no exception, security procedures were included to provide closer monitoring in the stable area to improve the deterrence and detection of inappropriate contacts with our athletes on the day of the race.
It has been a long process up to this point and we still have work to do. But our progress is a reflection of the creative thinking we are all capable of when we share the common goal of enhancing the health and safety of our athletes and the integrity of our sport.
Stuart S. Janney III: Thank you, Matt...
I'd also like to acknowledge and thank those that worked so hard on this document.
We will hear from McKinsey & Company later in this program. As you can imagine, their report on Thoroughbred racing and breeding includes a tremendous amount of consumer research. I'll read from their report:
"...perceptions among core fans that rule violators are not sanctioned quickly, uniformly, or severely enough create cynicism and contribute to their reluctance to recommend the sport to others."
Just last month, the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) conducted a poll of its members: 74.5% supported the phase out of race-day Lasix within the next five years.
We thought HANA president Jeff Platt made some insightful comments in the wake of this poll.
"The results of the poll speak volumes. The public is against race-day medications. And the concerns go beyond race-day medications... They're against the idea of performance-enhancing drugs in sports. It's not just racing, the Olympics, baseball, basketball, football, you name it, track and field, fans think, 'If you need drugs to improve your performance, how good of an athlete are you?'
"That's what the common everyday guy thinks."
Well, that makes it pretty clear what our customers think.
As we have looked at the future, there are issues that persist in our sport that can be resolved and the time is right.
So, today, as chairman of the Thoroughbred Safety Committee and on behalf of my fellow committee members and the board of stewards of The Jockey Club, we recommend the wholesale adoption of the 2011 reformed racing medication rules, as proposed.
My next topic today concerns something so common to many of us, it has gone largely unnoticed.
The Thoroughbred Safety Committee is concerned about the basic business model for veterinary practice at racetracks. For any of us that have designed or operated a workplace incentive system, there is at least one certainty of human behavior: people base their conduct on how you pay, not what you say.
Veterinarians have shared their concern that the majority of their revenue is derived from the administration and dispensing of medication while receiving little or no compensation for examinations, diagnostics or other professional services.
Is it any wonder that our industry is criticized for being overmedicated?
So we do agree with the American Association of Equine Practitioners, who addressed this very subject in their racing white paper, that such a revenue model is fundamentally flawed. Veterinary fee structures should place emphasis upon the value of professional services rather than the administration and dispensing of medication.
Today, the Thoroughbred Safety Committee is asking all trainers and veterinarians, with the support of owners, to reconsider their revenue models in a manner that properly recognizes the value of veterinary services independent of the administration of medication.
Today's recommendations are available on The Jockey Club website, along with our first 11 recommendations.
I can't conclude my remarks without discussing what has been described as "the Lasix issue" — a polarizing topic if ever there was one.
The international medication summit held at Belmont Park provided us with insight into medication policies and the rules in several international jurisdictions. With the recent announcement by Argentina to eliminate the use of Lasix in Group 1 and 2 races, the biggest difference between the U.S. and a growing list of our international colleagues is that our rules permit the administration of drugs on race day to nearly all starters — and a vast majority of 2-year-olds and first-time starters.
Lasix is not permitted at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, even in what their own officials have termed "an unfriendly environment for the respiratory tract." They have 4.6 bleeding incidents for every 1,000 runners and only 35 horses are retired each year due to bleeding issues.
Their philosophical resistance to Lasix lies in the belief that they should not "pharmacologically adapt the horse to the demands of the industry," rather, they should adapt the demands of the industry to the limitations of the horse.
In a presentation here in Saratoga a few weeks ago, a noted veterinarian estimated that if Lasix were to be eliminated, it is likely that 0.2% of North American racehorses would be excluded from racing due to bleeding.
Beyond the economics of the sport, there lies another critical question:
Where do you draw the line between therapeutic and competitive need?
All of us share one common objective: that medications administered at any time prior to a race do not influence the outcome of that race.
We were pleased to hear the preliminary reports 10 days ago from the RMTC subcommittees organized to tackle the difficult issues raised at the medication summit.
Among the recommendations were:
(i) continued study to develop a comprehensive plan to better understand the effects of eliminating the use of Lasix in our horses;
(ii) improve the security of the stable area on race days;
(iii) give our penalties more teeth to deter and punish cheating;
And in the interim, (iv): to immediately require any race-day administration of Lasix be performed by regulatory veterinarians.
We were equally pleased with the RMTC's call to immediately eliminate the use of adjunct bleeder medications in the 11 jurisdictions where it is permitted.
Research, security, deterrence and effective controls are hallmarks of clean competition, and we applaud the RMTC for its renewed commitment in these areas and for its determination to see these policies implemented in our various racing jurisdictions.
At this conference last year I discussed Lasix by stating what we know about it and what we don't.
I think the issue was best captured by a prominent regulator who has said on more than one occasion: Lasix is "good for the horse, but bad for horse racing."
Few have since disagreed.
While we understand and respect the opinion of those who are pro-Lasix, The Jockey Club continues to believe that horses should compete only when they are free from medication and performing on natural ability alone.
Other principles we support are the need for taking measured steps that carefully consider short- and long-term effects.
And we also, fundamentally, need to rely upon research.
For these reasons, we believe this industry is best served by taking measured steps on the road toward medication-free racing.
We believe a phase-in should begin with all 2-year-old Thoroughbreds racing free of medication.
That's not a sample. We mean the entire foal crop across the country; in other words, every horse from a particular foal crop that gets to the races in every state.
Last March, representatives of the Association of Racing Commissioners International called for the phase-out of race-day medication. This is an opportunity for that organization to demonstrate that horse racing doesn't need federal intervention to set the right course.
The data derived from this period — the business data and the health data — will be significant and certainly enough to prove or disprove many of the theories that abound.
- Are our horses and training environments so different from the rest of the world as to require the prophylactic treatment of nearly 100 percent starters?
- Or is it really just a measurement issue that overestimates the problem fueling a continuation of a medication practice that has been with us for nearly four decades?
- Can we say with certainty that we know the cumulative effect of breeding decisions that are based upon performance results earned when medications influence the results of races?
- If medication information affects betting practices, isn't it logical that it would affect breeding decisions that are based on racing performance?
As you will see throughout the second half of today's program, this industry faces many significant challenges. With some thoughtful analysis and recommendations emanating from the McKinsey team, there will be strategies put in place to meet and overcome these challenges.
The use of medication — as it affects competition — is a crucial issue, and one that continues to haunt us. If we hope to attract new owners and new fans, we need to change the public perception of this sport.
Last month, Breeders' Cup announced plans to develop protocols to eliminate race-day medication in its championship event over the next two years. Earlier this week, the Graded Stakes Committee voted to implement a ban of race-day medication for 2-year-old graded stakes races for 2012 and then make an assessment about continuing or expanding the policy.
These are important steps for our sport.
We want to be compared favorably with the other professional sports. But how can we expect fans to see us in that light when those sports have all instituted programs to rid their athletes of substances that affect performance while we continue to not only tolerate such practice but sanction it?
When I stepped up to this podium three years ago to issue our first update on the Thoroughbred Safety Committee, I mentioned that the committee had been guided in its work by our desire to do what is right for the safety and well-being of the horse and the rider — and by the need to change the public's perception of our industry.
We steadfastly maintain that desire and that two-pronged focus. If we really want to enhance the safety of our athletes and the perception of our sport, our horses must compete only when they are free from the influence of medication.
In the eyes of the Thoroughbred Safety Committee, that day cannot come soon enough.
Thank you very much.
Ogden Mills Phipps: Thank you, Stuart, for that update and those recommendations...and for sharing those thoughts on our medication issue. I am sure that many of you agree that that day can't come soon enough.