Little by little, the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place for the Anti-Doping and Medication Control (ADMC) component of the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act, which is due to come into force early next year.
Last month, this program was named as an agency to officially manage it, namely Drug Free Sports International, an organization that has helped administer drug testing programs to many of the major human sports leagues.
Then, last week, the draft ADMC rules were released for public comment. These draft regulations can be viewed here.
Adolpho Birch, Chairman of HISA’s ADMC Committee, simultaneously released a letter outlining key changes to the revised ADMC rules from the previously released draft rules, when the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) seemed poised to become HISA’s enforcement agency.
In the letter, Birch points out that the possible penalties for violations of controlled therapeutic drugs have been reduced, to more clearly distinguish between drug violations where prohibited substances are administered and those where controlled therapeutic substances have been administered.
In addition, in the event of a positive test result and a request for analysis of a B sample, a person from the implementing organization will choose the laboratory themselves, which may be a different laboratory from that which carried out the analysis. initial analysis.
On Tuesday morning, HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus held a Q&A with the media to discuss the draft ADMC rules in more detail. Here is a summary of his comments.
Lazarus provided some interesting background to the reasons behind the need for trainers and owners to keep daily treatment records for the horses in their care, a basic overview of which can be found here.
The registration system designates a responsible person for each horse. And that in turn puts a burden on the responsible trainer or owner to ensure they keep detailed records and documentation – essentially running a “tight vessel”, as Lazarus put it.
In the event of a drug violation, the HISA authority may therefore request these documents and records, “and these records may form part of the record,” Lazarus said.
In this regard, Lazarus has also developed HISA’s “tracking” program, which essentially ensures that all horses under HISA’s jurisdiction are accounted for at all times.
In the first phase of the whereabouts program, which is due to take effect early next year, responsible persons are required to submit a whereabouts file if they remove a horse from a registered racetrack or facility.
In other words, Lazare said, “If you take a horse to a private facility or a private farm, you must let us know.” And there are possible penalties for non-compliance, including potential fines for not submitting a whereabouts file.
However, failure to produce a horse for a drug test results in a two-year presumptive violation (pending a hearing), regardless of the test result.
“If you take a horse out of a public racetrack where we know where the horse is, you don’t tell us where the horse is with the whereabouts record, we search for the horse, we reach out to the covered person – we’re gonna have access to all of this through our database – and they’re not producing [the horse] immediately for testing, then, it’s a presumptive two-year penalty,” Lazarus said.
Ultimately, Lazarus said, the plan is to have a system in place that identifies the whereabouts of any covered horse at all times.
“But one of the things we want to understand and see is if we can really extract this data from existing resources without adding more paperwork to participants,” she said.
Before diving into this section, there are important nomenclature changes to note, compared to the use of “primary” and “secondary” substances in the previous draft rules.
Under these revised rules, “banned substances” is an umbrella term for anything that should not be in a horse on race day. Prohibited substances refer to doping substances, while controlled drugs are essentially therapeutic substances.
A list of banned and controlled substances, as well as possible penalties for a positive test result, can be viewed here.
Lazarus provided an overview of the case management process.
If a horse tests positive for a banned substance such as a steroid, anabolic or growth hormone, the person responsible is immediately suspended until a hearing takes place.
“The presumption is that it’s a two-year sanction,” Lazarus said.
However, that two-year penalty can be reduced if the person responsible can demonstrate “no fault or no significant fault”, Lazarus said, adding that any sentence reduction is based on the person responsible proving how the substance entered the system. of the horse in the first place.
“So, for example, if you’re in a situation of a steroid [positive] and you want to argue that someone gave the horse a steroid without your knowledge, you actually have to prove that [scenario] to the confidence and satisfaction of the hearing panel,” said Lazarus, who also explained how there will be potential four-year bans for “aggravating circumstances” like trafficking, evasion of collecting samples and sample tampering.
Public disclosure of test results
In USADA’s version of the ADMC program, a rather controversial element was that A-sample results were not necessarily going to be automatically released to the public.
But Lazarus pointed to a change in tone, with results from a sample now to be made available online.
“You will know the person covered, the horse covered and the substance that was detected in the sample,” she said. “You will be able to follow the essence of the file as it goes through the various stages. [For example,] if there is a hearing to lift a suspension that will be recorded, the decision will be recorded,” she added.
Shortened arbitration deadlines
The time to hear and decide cases will be “incredibly reduced” compared to the current model at the state level, Lazarus said.
After a hearing, for example, the arbitrator will have to issue a decision within 14 days. In the appeal process, defendants have 30 days to appeal the charges, and then a hearing must be held within 60 days of the initial notice.
Asked if the strengthened system allows defendants enough time to mount a fair defense – especially in complex cases – Lazare said cases would be tried on an individual basis, with leeway given in “exceptional circumstances” so as not to compromise due process. .
That said, the truncated schedule — as well as any provisional suspension for a banned substance violation — could also act as incentive leverage, Lazarus said.
“If you’re facing a two-year sentence and it’s a banned substance, you’re going to be suspended for the case processing planning period, and so they’re probably going to be very motivated to make it happen. heard quickly as well, so that also protects the attendees,” she said.
According to Lazarus, almost half of the covered horses and people who need to be registered by July 1 have done so. However, racing offices will soon provide a “no racing flag” if a horse entered to race is not registered with HISA, she said.
This is more intended as a prompt, Lazarus said, as it won’t necessarily affect the horse’s eligibility to race, as long as that horse is actually registered before July 1.
The current ADMC test program is still under development, Lazarus said, and so details are slim.
That said, in the past various officials have suggested that under HISA not all winners would necessarily be tested after the race, which is a departure from the current model.
Lazarus, however, indicated that indeed the post-race drug testing network could still accommodate all winners.
“We try to balance a robust testing program that acts as a deterrent with the intelligence-based benefits you get from looking at intelligence metrics,” Lazarus said.