Re: Jockey/Trainer News - 2017
Posted: Mon Jan 01, 2018 10:29 pm
I've taken some time to express below why I feel the way I do about situations like this one. Feel free to offer counter-arguments if you think I got any facts wrong, there's a lot of hearsay going around. I'm okay with nobody changing their minds based on what I think and write. To me, this is just another example of why I feel strongly that medication reform is very much needed in this sport.Catalina wrote:Let's see if I recall this right: You are not supposed to race a horse on steroids because it enhances performance. Nor are you supposed to work a horse that is on steroids, because it encourages steroid-induced muscle growth.BaroqueAgain1 wrote:IIRC, Ellis is not claiming "that he didn't do anything wrong." He has acknowledged the drug overage, explained how it happened and taken responsibility for his decision.
IMHO, however, I supported his suggestion to remove ONE DAY from his suspension, while adding a year of probation, so that his stable didn't have to disband...and his stable hands weren't suddenly all out of work.
If TVG allows him to work from the studio, they might be showing support for that. Not for illegal med use.
There’s seems to be some confusion about CHRB regulations and BC regulations. I admit I have some sympathy for Ron Ellis because, in this current racing environment, I think any of us racing fools could find ourselves in similar situations.
At the time of this infraction in 2016, CHRB allowed horses to be treated with anabolic steroids as long as they go on the vet list and not race for 60 days after it was administered. CHRB regs also prohibit horses from testing positive for ANY amount of anabolic steroid.
The first reg was inconsistent with the NUMP/ARCI model rule at the time, which was NOT completely adopted by the CHRB. The ARCI model rule required a horse to not race for 60 days, but also have a negative drug test to ensure the substance was no longer in the horse’s system. This inconsistency, I think, caught the BC off guard and embarrassed both of these racing bodies. I think they were also embarrassed that the state vet knew about the prior positive and didn’t inform the BC.
After this incident, ARCI updated its model rule “to require a horse who receives an anabolic steroid treatment to sit out of racing for at least six months.” But remember, states are not forced to adopt ARCI rules, some tweak the model rule (as CHRB did in this case) and others don’t adopt the rules at all. Even when there’s agreement to adopt rules, that can take a very long time. The BC recently adopted the new ARCI rule to avoid the inconsistencies among state regulators, but now we have yet another racing body adding their own version of inconsistent racing regs.
Most experts agree that the picograms found in Masochistic was not enough to affect performance on race day. These tests have gotten so sensitive that they are even picking up trace amounts of caffeine, antihistamines, and any other drug that may be present in a horse’s contaminated environment. Racing does not do a good job making judgements that distinguish between environmental contamination and drugs directly administered to the horses, but that wasn’t the issue in this case. Ellis fully admitted he administered the drug and when. He tried only to negotiate a settlement that would preserve his livelihood and the jobs of his stable staff.
There are legitimate therapeutic benefits to using anabolic steroids. It can be a life-saving treatment in cases of some diseases that cause wasting. It’s well-known that anabolic steroids help a horse recover from exercise, improve appetite, and build muscle mass. Masochistic seems like a “hard keeper” who benefited from its use during breaks between races, and that was perfectly legal under CHRB regs at the time which in turn wasn’t an issue under BC rules at the time. The only issue was that it wasn't long enough after treatment to completely leave the horse’s system and he tested positive post-race for trace amounts.
CHRB issues guidelines for medication withdrawal times. For anabolic steroids, the guideline is 60 days. I think Masochistic’s race day positive was 67 days after treatment. Obviously, there is a wide disparity between horses in how they metabolize these substances, which is another problem these rules create for trainers and owners when they are written as zero positive, that is NO trace of this drug can be found in post-race tests whether or not that trace amount can affect race-day performance.
Ron Ellis is by far not the only trainer who sees the therapeutic value of anabolic steroids and uses it when he thinks it can be beneficial. Masochistic was put on the CHRB vet list each time, again following the rules in place at the time, and the vet list is very public, not hidden from bettors or anyone else. It is published on the CHRB website, anabolic steroids is categorized under “medication”: http://www.chrb.ca.gov/misc_docs/VetList.pdf. And, yes, this drug like many others can be and is abused. And the “golden boys” large-stable trainers use it too.
There was no prohibition that I know of that kept horses who were on the CHRB vet list from training. Masochistic did have published workouts during the time he was on the vet list: http://www.equibase.com/profiles/workou ... registry=T. I’ve heard no outcry from CHRB or BC that this too was in violation.
The backsides of race tracks have ears and tongues, and news travels fast (remember, before the Internet, this was our main means of spreading news quickly). Believe me this situation was discussed widely inside barn walls. Ron Ellis is known as an ethical and honest horseman, not a frequent user of hard core drugs. He competes is a high-profile circuit and tries to do right by his horses and owners. I am fairly sure that his decision to take a risk and race Masochistic under these circumstances would have been discussed with his owners, at least one of which is a big user of Twitter. I don’t remember any Tweets from her expressing outrage at this decision to race.
I also recall hearing (either from racing pubs or backside chatter, not sure) that Dr. Arthur did not tell Ron about the Positive test for several days after he knew about it and, when he did tell Ellis, it was three days before the race. Ellis tried to get a more current test run then, but he could not find a testing lab willing or able to do such a quick turnaround. Yes, he took a risk and he lost big time here. I and many others think the punishment in this case does not fit the crime.
So, the status quo may be acceptable to some folks but, I think there are too many good guys who try to play by the rules and actually make a living in this sport and get burnt by it. Ron Ellis is known to many people as one of the good guys. I can’t support seeing people like him crucified when they make a mistake or misjudgment under rules and regulations that are ambiguous and inconsistent. There are other good guys caught up in situations that seem terribly unreasonable when you look through the eyes of other horsepeople. Just look up Graham Motion who has been caught in a “trace amount” situation from 2015 in Kentucky. Motion wasn’t even allowed to present evidence to support his case during the appeals phase. The case has since snowballed like crazy and, besides due process, involves the “absolute insurer” rule. http://www.drf.com/news/motion-ruling-c ... er-statute
What’s the solution? Here’s one from the Jockey Club website:
http://www.jockeyclub.com/Default.asp?s ... story=1021Since its inception more than a decade ago, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) has worked to develop and promote uniform rules and testing standards at the national level, which culminated in the creation of the National Uniform Medication Program (NUMP) in 2012. A review of the rules of pari-mutuel racing conducted between July 19 and November 16, 2017, shows that not one of the major racing jurisdictions has adopted NUMP in its entirety.
Component 4 - Adoption of the current version of the ARCI Penalty Guidelines for Multiple Medication Violations (MMV) by state racing commissions - has been fully adopted in the most current version by nine of the states reviewed: Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Maryland, Montana, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. Note those absent from this list.
After a decade of trying for voluntary adoption, the Jockey Club is supporting the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017 (H.R. 2651).
Horseracing may not have too many more decades to spare. There are too many people who care more about these horses than they care about wagering or who gets the biggest trophies and eclipse awards.When enacted, H.R. 2651 would provide the horse racing industry with a single set of uniform drug testing rules and enforcement protocols that would be managed by an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit anti-doping organization.
Passing this act might be a good place to start, but I’m no longer convinced that this alone will solve the many issues facing racing. It looks to me now that it will take a National Commission Office to enforce consistency and uniformity on issues other than medication use, like aftercare and the financial structure of the sport, and to successfully market it. I seriously doubt we’ll make horse racing popular again if we don’t make some drastic changes very soon. And we will keep losing participants - owners, trainers, breeders, fans and the wagering public - until it's no longer sustainable.