In Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) President Ed Martin’s letter to the Thoroughbred Daily News on Feb. 2, he once again defends the status quo with few facts and no real solutions to racing’s lack of national uniformity in rules and regulations for safety and medication control.
Ed has been defending the status quo for years. In 2018, and again in 2020, Ed testified before Congress against the then-forerunner to the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act, saying it was “a radical and unnecessary federalization of a state responsibility that is exercised effectively.”
Clearly, he chooses to ignore the March 2020 federal arrests, and ultimate convictions, of the 27 trainers and veterinarians who, incidentally, operated worry free for years under Ed’s racing commissioners. He chooses to ignore that our industry is no longer operating in a vacuum, that our equine athletes have advocates outside the racetrack and they have influence with state and federal legislators. Finally, Ed chooses to ignore that HISA has been working hard, and for the most part cooperatively, with states and racetracks to implement HISA rules.
Ed needs to be reminded, again, how we got here.
Over decades, regulators have repeatedly “promised” to clean up horse racing. There have been countless calls for rule uniformity since I can remember. Virtually every industry conference has touted the future as having standardized nationwide rules with more vigorous enforcement. The concept is nothing new, but because of HISA, this is the first time the goal is truly within our grasp.
The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium did a lot of good for the industry, but the nationwide reform we thought would come from it never materialized. I had hopes for the National Uniform Medication Program (NUMP), but once again, the regulatory authorities of different jurisdictions were unable to enact the same rules and regulations across the nation. In 2020, The Jockey Club developed a scorecard for the NUMP to see if it was effective. It wasn’t. Only nine states had fully adopted all four phases of the program; 16 states had adopted only one. Mid-Atlantic states joined forces over the years to come into compliance with NUMP, but most other regions did not.
Ed has long suggested that a federal racing compact among the state regulators is all that we need. He conveniently omits that there already is a compact, and it has attracted virtually no support from the membership of the ARCI. With the ability of individual states to opt out of rules they do not favor, the compact all but guaranteed the same morass of inconsistent and conflicting rules among the states so many key industry participants have long wanted to correct.
Ed wrote, “It’s hard for some of us who have been around for a while to watch as this situation could have been avoided.” In a way, he’s right about that point. HISA would never have had an adverse legal decision if the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act had never become law. But, for those of us who want change, Ed’s worn-out proposals to “get everyone in a room and come up with an alternative approach to avoid the endless and costly litigation” reflects an inability to either understand or appreciate that there is a divide in this industry between those who savor the illusionary comfort of the status quo and those who know that if racing is going to truly survive it must make safety of our athletes and integrity of our game our preeminent goals.
Perhaps Ed has been fighting against HISA since the beginning because he’s afraid people will realize that the ARCI failed its mission. According to ARCI’s website, it sets “…international standards for racing regulation, medication policy, drug testing laboratories, totalizator systems, racetrack operation and security, as well as off-track wagering entities.” So, HISA is making medication regulation standards uniform and meaningful, something ARCI has never been able to do.
It is abundantly clear to anyone inside or outside of racing that our current state-based anti-doping, medication control and safety rule structure is not equipped to create national uniformity and set high standards for safety and integrity.
As we learned in March of 2020, it took the resources of the FBI and outside investigators to get the job done and bring justice to the blatant cheaters manipulating racing, while at the same time, laying bare the incompetence of the regulators that were supposed to be protecting the sport. The Jockey Club has long supported the creation of a nationwide approach grounded in federal law because we realize that horse racing, as a national sport, cannot survive if history keeps repeating itself and national uniformity is never achieved.
Yet once again, Ed Martin is defending the status quo. Don’t let him rewrite a history that he deservedly owns.
—James L. Gagliano, President and COO, The Jockey Club