Thursday, June 21, 2012

Reason Number 3,492 Why Uniform Rules Are Needed

The Daily Racing Form reported the following with regards to the Demorphin positives recently found in a few southern states. The trainer has initially been handed a six month suspension.
  •  The case has been referred to the commission because the stewards in Louisiana are restricted to handing down a maximum six-month suspension, according to Charles Gardiner, the commission’s executive director. The minimum recommended suspension for a drug like dermorphin – a potent opioid with morphine-like effects – is one year, and the trainer who was issued the suspension, Alvin Smith, was suspended 13 years ago for two positives of a drug in the same potent class.
How crazy is that? It's a second class I, and we have to go up the chain of command to get a penalty longer than six months? Sure it looks like he'll get more, after "circumstances" are looked at, but when your guidelines at the steward level say six months? Incredible.

What's this say to the public and to politicians who think we're all crooks? We have someone allegedly using frog venom which can kill horses and humans, and they read in the paper he might get six months? If they read further they see he did similar in 1999 (he got a whopping seven months back then, some deterrent eh?)and was let back to do it again? What the heck?

The amazing thing is, if it happened in another state, he'd get a different penalty. Some states, like California defy some logic. Other states like New York are more draconian.

It's a mess.

It's not 1980 anymore, where exotic drugs are not readily purchased. Today it's a different beast, and for things like this, we need uniform penalties. In some cases we need lifetime bans.

The Ontario Racing Commission had to deal with this long before other jurisdictions. EPO - a completely horrible Class I drug - made the rounds in the early 2000's, via EPO/DPO and aranesp and they were extremely vigilant. Ask anyone who had to care for a horse who was coming down off EPO and they'll tell you some horror stories. It's an awful drug for horses. They immediately stepped up to the plate and changed the way class I's like this are handled. (pdf)

For the gentleman who is accused of using this "tree frog drug" in Louisiana, he'd be at minimum gone for 5 years (this is his second class I) in Ontario. He would not be able to race while under appeal. If he has other positives on his record, he'd be likely gone 10 years and face a huge fine in Ontario. If he proves his innocence on appeal, that's fine, and good for him, but the guidelines and penalty would be swift and without question.

Steve Crist once said he talked to horseplayers about drugs and towards trainers they were "hang them high and hang them higher". I'm not like that. Mistakes are made, intent to injure the game or horses, or fellow horse owners, as well as extenuating circumstances do happen and can happen. Everyone deserves their day in court after a penalty is handed down. But the initial publicly reported penalty for something like this should never be six months, anywhere. It should be years, it should be the same no matter where you race a horse, and it must be done like that so cheaters take commissions seriously, and our customers know there is someone minding the store who's watching their backs.

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