By Mike Kane
Trainers Scott Lake and Hector Garcia unwittingly became part of racing regulatory history in late January when they were the first horsemen to receive additional suspensions from the Maryland Racing Commission, which was using the guidelines of the Multiple Medication Violation Penalty System that is part of the National Uniform Medication Program (NUMP).
Maryland became fully compliant with all four sections of NUMP Jan. 1.
Ed Martin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI), which developed the model rules in the NUMP, confirmed that Lake and Garcia were the first horsemen to cross point thresholds for multiple violations and trigger the supplemental penalties. While Martin said it was a noteworthy moment, it wasn’t a happy occasion because it meant that medication rules were being broken.
Mike Hopkins, executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission, acknowledged the significance of the added penalties and said it showed that the NUMP system worked.
“When this whole process started about 15 years ago with the RMTC (Racing & Medication Testing Consortium), the goal was for some uniformity in a number of areas,” Hopkins said. “This is a positive step in the right direction.”
Lake received an extra 60 days to go with the 60 days and $1,000 fine he was assessed by Maryland’s stewards for post-race positives for the anabolic steroid stanozolol in December. The four penalty points Lake was handed for the Maryland infraction were added to four points he had on his record from a post-race stanozolol positive at Penn National on June 11, 2014. The total of eight points triggered the second 60-day suspension. Lake has appealed the 120-day suspension that was due to begin on. Feb. 5.
Hopkins said he hopes the Maryland Racing Commission will be able to hear Lake’s appeal at its March meeting.
Garcia had a total of four post-race positives in December and January and the multiple medication violation penalty points that came with those cases increased his suspension by 240 days. Maryland’s stewards handed out a total of 150 days of suspensions and $2,000 in fines for the four positives – three for stanozolol and one for the sedative xylazine. The suspensions, which must be served consecutively, will keep Garcia away from training through Feb. 29, 2016.
After the suspensions were announced, the Maryland Jockey Club notified Garcia and suspended trainer Juan Vazquez, for whom Garcia worked, that they had to remove their horses from MJC property within two weeks.
NUMP was formalized in 2012 to replace the often disparate rules in place in the nation’s racing states.
The Jockey Club has long advocated for uniform national standards for medications, testing and penalties.
At its annual Round Table Conference in 2013 and 2014 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Jockey Club officials, led by chairman Ogden Mills Phipps, said they would seek federal legislation if states did not adopt the NUMP standards.
The Jockey Club has promoted the concept of an independent third-party body, such as the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which handles Olympic testing, overseeing racing’s program.
In his closing remarks at the 2014 Round Table, Phipps said that the organization’s Board of Stewards had authorized staff to develop and implement a national legislative strategy.
“To be clear, this broadened strategy will include federal legislation,” Phipps said. “We have also instructed The Jockey Club management team to further investigate a relationship with the independent and well-respected body like USADA. USADA will bring credibility, integrity, and objectivity to our sport.”
Matt Iuliano, executive vice-president and executive director of The Jockey Club, said that the organization is following the Stewards‘ mandate.
“That work is in process,” he said.
According to The Jockey Club, which closely follows these matters, with Maryland on board, eight of the 33 racing jurisdictions have adopted all four phases of NUMP. The NUMP package is made up of a schedule of thresholds for 26 approved therapeutic medications; third-party administration of Lasix; use of an RMTC-approved lab; the multiple medication violation penalty system. Of the eight states that account for approximately half of the races and 83 percent of the graded stakes in the U.S., only Maryland and New Jersey have implemented all of the NUMP.
Lake’s second 60-day suspension is an ideal example of the penalty program working because the infractions occurred in different states.
The RCI maintains the national database for the points lists.
Iuliano said that some progress has been made since Phipps made his comments at the Round Table and pointed to states that had adopted pieces of the NUMP. However, Iuliano said small victories and partial implementation of NUMP standards are not enough.
“Our main objective,” he said, “is to ensure that we’ve got a single uniform medication rule book and penalty structure that is fairly and independently applied to all the connections – owners, trainers, breeders, etc. – and that it is enforced without variation. Naturally, we’re very keen on areas where there appears to be non-uniformity, which creeps into the process.”
Iuliano said The Jockey Club applauds states, such as Arkansas, North Dakota and Maryland, that recently began following the NUMP, but that a number of states are missing one or more of the elements.
“When you look at that scorecard there is variation,” he said. “A lot of it is timing. That is, one aspect of the uniformity initiative may come on line followed after several months with a second component of it, followed perhaps by a third and a fourth.
“We certainly don’t want to discourage any jurisdiction from adopting it, but we continue to encourage jurisdictions that when they look at these rules they have to be adopted in their totality. And they have to be put into place so there is very clear instructions that can be presented to everyone who has a connection to a Thoroughbred.”
New York, has implemented two of the NUMP standards – the controlled therapeutic medication schedule and the third party administration of Lasix – and is moving toward adding more of the program.
However, New York’s Controlled Therapeutic Medication Schedule differs from the NUMP because it features restricted administration times in addition to thresholds.
Lee Park, the spokesman for the New York State Gaming Commission, said that the New York Drug Testing and Research Program at Morrisville State College applied for accreditation in 2013 and has met all substantive technical requirements for the RMTC Laboratory Accreditation Program. The last element necessary for final accreditation regards annual research, which the New York Laboratory is addressing and expects to complete soon.
Park said that the multiple medication violation penalty program was approved as a proposed rule in December and is moving through New York’s rule-making process. It must be published the New York State Register and subject to a 45-day public comment period before the commission can consider adopting it as a rule.