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Integrity an HHI priority
Wednesday, May 02, 2018 - from Harness Horsemen International

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Burlington, NJ --- Integrity in racing will always be a priority of Harness Horsemen International, which supports the intent of the Standardbred Racing Integrity and Accountability Initiative proposed by the Woodbine Entertainment Group and Jeff Gural, the owner of the Meadowlands, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs.

However, HHI appreciates that WEG and Mr. Gural have postponed implementation of the Initiative after recognizing that several unintended consequences of the plan would have been detrimental to the racing industry.

HHI shares the Initiative's concern that "beard" trainers -- those who front for trainers who are ineligible for a variety of reasons -- are a blight upon the industry and need to be eliminated. But this needs to be accomplished without punishing owners, who might be unfairly caught in a web of partnerships.

The last thing anyone wants to do is discourage investors in horse ownership, so essential to the sustenance of our industry.

There is no quick fix, and the Initiative's original remedy would have deterred investors in racehorses by punishing rule-abiding owners and trainers solely due to a business relationship with a tarnished partner, virtually making them guilty by association. Attached, please find "HHI comments on the Standardbred Racing Accountability."

Sincerely,

Thomas Luchento, President

HHI comments on the Standardbred Racing Accountability

Harness Horsemen International supports the wisdom of regulation; however that regulation must be fair and reasonable to all concerned and geared towards the big picture goal. The big picture goal is to detect and prevent illicit substances from being administered to a horse leading to unfair performance enhancement in a race, and uniform unassailable enforcement with penalties adequate to deter such conduct. The overwhelming majority of North American owners, trainers and drivers are interested in having a level playing field in place for all competitors and are in favor of uniform, narrowly tailored regulations designed to bring that to fruition. The Standardbred Racing Integrity and Accountability Initiative (SRIAI) is not a regulation that is fair or reasonable, able to be uniformly applied, one that gives confidence of a level playing field, and will not be unassailable.

SRIAl was a joint initiative between Woodbine Entertainment Group and Jeff Gural scheduled to commence Jan. 1, 2018. SRlAI is a secondary, private, non-regulatory layer of enforcement in addition to the racing regulatory agency's enforcement process. If a racing regulatory agency returned a positive test as defined within the Association of Racing Commissioners International Uniform Classification for Foreign Substances as a Class I, II, TCO2 or steroid positive test, SRIAI bans any trainer, horse or owner (with at least a 25 percent stake) from participating in stakes races at Woodbine, Mohawk, the Meadowlands, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs in 2018. The ban was specific to the owner(s), trainer, and the horse. SRIAI further prevented transfer of the horse from an owner or trainer post-positive test.

The issues with a secondary private, non-regulatory layer of enforcement are numerous. The most egregious issues are, (1) a lack of uniformity among racing regulatory agencies in medication and testing screening limits, thresholds, rules, enforcement practices, and penalties, (2) the statistical shortcomings of utilizing the existing system of Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) thresholds, (3) the lack of uniformity in regulation throughout the United States and Canada, (4) the lack of authority for private, non-regulatory enforcement, and (5) not including horsemen's associations to provide opinion or input on the initiative.

Everyone agrees that it would be nice to see uniform rules in effect. But the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) backed ARCI promulgated model rules aren't the solution. First, no state has adopted the ARCI model rules verbatim in their entirety. Second, there isn't enough scientific research to establish the published thresholds as reliable or legal-challenge proof. Medication tests based on RMTC "standards" are set using 95/95 Tolerance Interval calculations. That means there is a 95 percent certainty that 95 percent of the test results will fall below a given threshold. The false positive probability is like playing Russian Roulette for each test sample taken. Finally, no other state or country has control over any other individual jurisdiction's adoption processes and procedures, so in the industry there is realistically no "Model Rule."

In conjunction with no control over what other jurisdictions implement and accept within their own borders, there is also no reliable information share system among the jurisdictions when they periodically revise their own rules, screening limits, or approved thresholds. As any one racing jurisdiction identifies shortcomings with one substance or another in their locale, they often do their own jurisdiction-specific research outside of the RMTC and ARCI framework. Then based off of their research they will tweak their rules using procedures to complement that research. So even if one jurisdiction adopts an ARCI rule as a standard they then tweak individual components of those model rules to fit into their jurisdictional racing practices. So although the ARCI Model Rules and Therapeutic Substance thresholds are a good starting point, verbatim acceptance in their entirety by all jurisdictions hasn't occurred.

One glaring area this occurs is with the controlled therapeutic medications. The therapeutic medications are essential to the welfare of the Standardbred racehorse, the safety of racing, and are an important component of the Standardbred racing business model. Another area this occurs is with the lack of a uniform environmental contamination threshold list with uniform screening limits. While some states have screening limits a majority of racing jurisdictions have no environmental contaminates thresholds.

In addition to a lack of uniformity among medication and testing standards in Canada and across the United States, a licensee standing in the shoes of a regulator isn't the answer. Licensing and enforcement lies with an administrative agent of a State or Province by law giving them the regulatory and enforcement powers over racing. Racetracks like horsemen are licensees, not regulators. The concept we are seeing play out with SRIAI is analogous to individual business owners forming a militia and aligning for the purpose of banning anyone convicted of a crime of any level from entering onto a public businesses' property and patronizing that business. A majority of horsemen racing in jurisdictions everywhere pay for pre- and post-race testing to the tune of millions of dollars a year, which are often deducted from horsemen's purse pools. They already pay a high price to police themselves. They don't need two "regulators" with only one vested with the legal right to be a regulator. And they don't need a disincentive program for owners, which is what will happen here as applied.

Harness Horsemen International appreciates the ability to provide their position relative to these issues. As set forth, the International Horsemen oppose SRIAI as a regulation that is not fair or reasonable, able to be uniformly applied, one that gives confidence of a level playing field, or provides unassailable enforcement.


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