“he has multiple violations across several states, 25 since 2005”
Horse trainer Doug O’Neill was said to be “ecstatic” over the wins at the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness by his horse, I’ll Have Another. He is proud of his racing record. The racing world now looks to the remaining Triple Crown race, the Belmont Stakes on June 9. Will there be a Triple Crown winner this year, the first since 1978?
A more pressing question should be why is O’Neill even allowed to participate in racing? Take a look at his other record, the one that shows he has multiple violations across several states, 25 since 2005, particularly for doping his horses with drugs, steroids or other substances that mask injuries and increase speed. –www.ThoroughbredRulings.com
O’Neill was just suspended in California for 45 days and given a $15,000 fine for milk shaking a horse in 2010. This means he is accused of illegally giving a horse a mixture of bicarbonate soda, electrolytes and sugar with the idea of enhancing performance by reducing fatigue. A blood test on his horse, Argenta, at the August 25, 2010 race at Del Mar revealed elevated levels of TCO2, a measure of carbon dioxide in a horse’s bloodstream, a sign of milkshaking. O”Neill has previously been fined for milkshaking but he denies ever doing it, telling AP reporter David Ginsburg, “everything will be fine…. I’m very confident everything will be dropped.” For its part, the California Horse Racing Board delayed the suspension until after the Belmont Stakes. Again, the race, the win, the money, are more important than the safety of the horses.
And, O’Neill will appeal the penalty and could obtain a stay during the appeal that would allow him to continue training, as he says, possibly until he retires. He is paying an attorney to make sure that happens.
O’Neill has reason to be confident that the labyrinth of state racing commissions, controlled by the industry, will never stop him from racing no matter how many times he may violate restrictions on drugs and other substances given to horses. Attorneys for violators have been very successful in delaying hearings and appeals so that there is virtually no disruption to their racing careers.
Also, look at trainer Rick Dutrow, Jr., for example. He was suspended Oct. 12, 2011 by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board for ten years from racing in New York. The last violation involved illegally giving butorphanol, a pain killer, to a horse at Aqueduct in New York. Syringes containing Xylazine, another painkiller and tranquilizer, were found in his possession. His violations over the years had resulted in 64 sanctions in 9 states at 50 racetracks.
Yet, Dutrow is currently working in racing in New York, training horses. He has appealed his suspension. Even if the suspension eventually goes into effect, nothing would stop Dutrow from training at tracks in other states.
Interstate Horse Racing Improvement Act
Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) have introduced H.R. 1733/S.B. 886, the Interstate Horse Racing Improvement Act of 2011 that would change that. The bill amends the Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978, 15 U.S.C. 3001 et seq. to prohibit anyone from entering a horse in a race where there is betting on the race if the horse is under the influence of a performance-enhancing drug. There is a 3 strikes you’re out penalty: A first violation would mean a $5,000 civil fine and a minimum 6 months suspension from racing where there is interstate offtrack betting; a second violation would mean a $20,000 civil fine and a suspension of at least 1 year; and a 3rd violation would mean a $50,000 civil fine and a permanent ban from horseracing where there is interstate offtrack betting.
The suspension or permanent ban would mean the violator could not participate in any activities including as a spectator at a race where there is interstate offtrack betting.
It would not matter that the violations were at different tracks or in different states. Each violation regardless of where it occurred would count towards the permanent ban.
Horses given performance enhancing drugs would also be ineligible to race for at least 6 months on a first offense, a minimum of 1 year for a second violation and at least 2 years for each subsequent violation.
A violation would also be considered an unfair or deceptive trade practice, and the FTC would have enforcement authority unless there was an agreement for a state or host racing commission to handle that. Even then, the FTC could still step in and enforce these provisions if the host racing commission does not adequately do so. The FTC would also monitor and handle enforcement with respect to violations occurring in multiple states and in connection with non-profits.
The bill further creates a private right of action. Organizations or individuals with standing could bring an action for injunction or other relief to enforce these provisions and even obtain damages or restitution and attorney’s fees.
In the last few years the alphabet soup horse racing organizations, National Thoroughbred Association (NTRA), the Jockey Club, the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) and the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC), have claimed they can “regulate” doping in the industry. They have “model rules” which, of course, are voluntary and unenforceable.
What is more, the ARCI model rules take a very limited view of “horse doping”. ARCI claimed in a Sep. 1, 2011 report, “DRUGS IN U.S. RACING – 2010 THE FACTS“ that there were only 47 cases of samples tested in 2010 that could qualify for the term “horse doping.”
Only the “non-therapeutic” use of anabolic steroids is prohibited, for example. Violations are listed on the RMTC Recent Rulings website at http://www.rmtcnet.com/content_recentrulings.asp.
Use of what the DEA classifies as Schedule III drugs are not counted as doping under the industry’s “model” rules. This would include anabolic steroids like nandrolone and the drug clenbuterol. ARCI may also exclude “milk shaking” (TCO2) violations!
The ARCI model rules permit race day Lasix, a diuretic almost universally given to horses to eliminate water weight. Bute, a painkiller, is administered like aspirin. Flunxin, a popular Non-Steroid Anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) is also used to mask injuries. The list goes on. (Some like Lasix or ACE, an anti-anxiety medication, mean big money as well for the veterinarians and manufacturers.)
On top of that, ARCI rules don’t count as doping the “overages” of “therapeutic medication” that are Schedule III and IV drugs. It’s a simple matter to call a drug “therapeutic” and then administer more than prescribed. And it would not be illegal under the industry’s vision of regulating abuse of horses with drugs.
It should be noted that state drug testing practices are as notoriously ineffective as their penalties. The New York Times found, for example, that New Mexico Racing Commission has found no bute positives recently. NMRC admitted the Commission has not been testing for bute, a commonly used painkiller, because of a limited budget. What else might not be currently tested for?
The use of drugs and steroids to force horses to run with even severe injuries and push them to the point of dehydration and collapse is epidemic.- and virtually unregulated.
Congress has substantial power to demand changes that will truly protect the horses and the wagering public who believe each race consists of sound horses and an equal field. After all, horse racing is about gambling dollars, and it is Congress that has permitted simulcast betting across state lines pursuant to the Interstate Horse Racing Act, 15 U.S.C. §3001 et seq. And that has made horse racing a $40 billion a year industry. Congress has also exempted online gambling for real money on horse racing from restrictions on online gambling under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA), 31 U.S.C.§§5361-5367.
These are substantial giveaways to an industry. If we plan to continue to support horse racing in this way, then we should make sure this industry is not a front for animal cruelty, a fraud on the betting public who have no idea the extent of drugs used to mask injuries and increase speed. Please support the Interstate Horse Racing Improvement Act of 2011, H.R. 1733/S.B. 886.
Click (HERE) to visit Animal Law Coalition and to Comment
- I’ll Have Another’s trainer banned 45 days (nbcsports.msnbc.com)
- Tim Layden: Derby-winning trainer O’Neill deals with success, suspicions (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)
- I’ll Have Another’s trainer suspended 45 days (espn.go.com)
- I’ll Have Another’s trainer suspended by Calif. racing board (mysanantonio.com)
- Triple Crown Hopeful May Have Been Drugged (webpronews.com)