- While we're diddling around here trying to think of how to make drug suspensions meaningful in thoroughbred racing, but not too meaningful lest we punish someone too harshly because gee y'know it could have been accidental or maybe the trainer wasn't actually there and isn't directly responsible and it wouldn't be fair to the owners or horses if they were banned and blah, blah, blah.....
Monticello Raceway, the upstate harness track we used to call "The Mighty M" back in the day, has decided to throw the book....no, the entire catalog at those who are caught using EPO's or similar drugs, including snake venom, by telling them to get lost and take their sulky with them.....permanently!
"If we catch someone, they are out of here," said Cliff Ehrlich, senior vice president of Monticello Gaming & Raceway, in an exclusive Record interview on Tuesday. "It's an industry-wide problem, and we want to make sure our horsemen understand that the time is over for us to allow anything like this to ever happen at Monticello. We are clearly sending a message and hope that other tracks follow suit." [Record Online]The main problem of course is catching them. EPO's remain notoriously difficult to test for, since cheaters use the drug in advance of races, and its detectable traces are often gone by race day. Currently, state rules only allow for the first three finishers in a race to be tested, making the tests largely worthless. Only 13 horses have been caught statewide since New York began testing for EPO. Four raced at Monticello.
On the other hand, Delaware last year greatly expanded the circumstances under which they can test standardbreds for EPO's and related substances as follows:
* Once a horse is entered to race.Of course, tracks like Monticello need the backing of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board in order to implement these harsher rules, and as noted in this editorial on the Record Online site (the internet version of the upstate Times Herald Record), the initial reaction from the state was not encouraging.
* Any horse that was entered or raced, within 60 days of entry or race.
* Any horse showing the presence of EPO, DPO, or like antibodies.
* Any horse in the care, custody, and control of a trainer having a horse that tested positive for EPO, DPO, and like substances, through a screening test.
Horses that die also are subject to the test. [Harness Tracks of America]
It would seem that state officials would not only welcome the news from Monticello but also rush to embrace these procedures and encourage their adoption elsewhere. If testing is to be enhanced and expanded, it will need the full and enthusiastic cooperation of the state Racing and Wagering Board.And by the way, kudos to the Times Herald Record and reporter Justin Rodriguez, who broke the story on the rampant use of EPO's and snake venom at Monticello last month. No doubt that his aggressive reporting on the issue encouraged track management to take the steps that it has (which also includes harsher penalties for "milkshakes").
So what was the reaction? The press secretary for the board declined to comment and refused to allow the chief of racing operations to be interviewed.
That is unacceptable behavior from the people who ultimately are responsible for the reputation of the sport.
If they don't want to get involved with solving this problem, then we need other leaders who will.