EXPANDING CULPABILITY IN HORSE DOPING BEYOND THE TRAINER

When a trainer in the United States is found to have run a horse that tests positive for a medication banned by the state racing authority, the trainer is held responsible.  The racing commission rule in Delaware is typical:

“15.1.3.1.1  A finding by the chemist that a foreign substance is present in the test sample shall be prima facie evidence that such foreign substance was administered and carried in the body of the horse while participating in a race.  Such a finding shall also be taken as prima facie evidence that the Trainer and agents responsible for the care or custody of the horse has/have been negligent in the handling or care of the horse.”

While “the trainer” is named in this rule, so are “agents,” which is construed to mean unspecified other parties.  However, the meaning of “agents” is vague: does the word refer to assistant trainers, stable foremen, veterinarians, and owners?

Whenever a trainer is suspended for medication violations, his or her horses are usually transferred to another licensed trainer.  This may be a ruse, a transfer to another trainer in name only.

Contrast the way doping is policed in United States horse racing with the rules and penalties of the Federation Equestre International.  This worldwide governing body for horse sports holds responsible for a drug violation the person (rider or driver) who competes with the horse or the horse’s handler.  These people are immediately and automatically suspended if a horse tests positive.  Once the FEI investigates, any other individuals who participated in, or had knowledge of, the doping are also penalized.

The preset penalty for doping is a two-year suspension.  A person can get this penalty reduced or eliminated only if he or she can prove no fault to a hearing panel.  In order to do this, he or she must identify the party or parties who doped the horse.

The U. S. Equine Federation recently followed the lead of the Federation Equestre International by seeking to identify and sanction all persons who are responsible for a doping violation, although the U. S. rules are not as stringent.

American horse racing could improve its reputation for integrity among bettors and the general public were state racing authorities to adopt the approach of the Federation Equestre International.  A trainer should not be the only individual to be sanctioned for violations if it can be shown that other individuals were partly or entirely to blame.

Further, suspending, for 45-60 days, a horse that was found to be running on a banned medication would encourage owners to stay away from training stables with a history of drug violations.

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