Proactive Enforcement

The New York State Gaming Commission has adopted new rules aimed at repeat violators. Essentially, they adopted the same sort of point system other states use to target trainers with multiple violations. Each violation will accumulate points, with the humber of points per violation dependent on the severity of the offense.  Reaching certain point levels will result in suspension. For example, accumulating 3 1/2 to 5 points would result in a 30 day suspension, while 11 points would bag the offender a year off.

Nobody seems to have any serious opposition to this sort of rule, and I expect you won’t hear any until someone gets pinched for multiple violations of the same medication, much like what happened to Bill Brashears. ( In any case, if the rule snags offenders looking to gain an edge, it’s a good tool for the toolbox.

What may be more interesting are the proposed rules still under consideration.

This includes an idea to reduce exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage incidents. The NYSGC wants to more specifically use episodes of epistaxis (bleeding from the nostrils) to restrict horses from racing. This includes mandating disclosure of such cases to future owners, and requiring endoscopic exams after such episodes. I’m not how the rule will work out in practice, but it doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

The proposed rules also call for something I have advocated for a long time – requiring a log of all medications given to a horse, both by veterinarians (already required in NY) and trainers and their employees. According to an article in the Blood Horse,

“The package of proposed rules also include efforts to eliminate “the unnecessary administration of metabolism-modifying drugs,” [state equine medical director Scott} Palmer told the board, as well as new requirements involving drug prescription renewals, and the effort to ban the administration of drugs “in the absence of an actual medical disorder.”

That last part was targeted at trainer Steve Asmussen who was accused by PETA of unnecessary administration of the thyroid medication thyroxine.

While the medication log is an excellent step, I’ve suggested that for the strategy to be most effective it has to be accompanied by an audit requirement. One of the problems with enforcement is that most of the money and effort goes to post-race violations. By doing, say, monthly audits of the medication log, you have a real opportunity to catch a problem before it manifests in a race result, and this should be priority one. After a result has been declared official, the horseplayer is already screwed if one of the horses has a violation level. I don’t know what the exact division should be between pre-race and post-race testing and investigatory funding, but it currently is too heavily weighted toward getting offenders after the real damage is done.

Putting away bad guys may keep them from committing crimes, and that is one element of enforcement, but I will continue to push for the idea that tracks need to increase proactive efforts to find violators before the bettor is taken advantage of. They need to hire real investigators and not incompetent hacks ( I’ve outlined a series of proactive efforts in the article about Kirk Ziadie’s suspension (¬†and if tracks are serious about protecting bettors, they will start taking the proactive part of enforcement more seriously.

What everyone who works in enforcement knows is that a violation prevented is far better than catching someone after the fact. Make the bettors believe the races are being run fairly and you are on the road to helping the sport rebound, but if all we ever read about is suspending a Kirk Ziadie after 18 violations, racing may have won a battle, but unless it uses all the potential tools, it will never get the necessary public confidence or win the war.