By: Tom LaMarra
Development of a central rule-making process for uniform medication policies and related implementation will be the 2016 focus for the Association of Racing Commissioners International.
The organization’s board of directors at a recent meeting voted to act on “unifying the racing industry” on integrity initiatives as well as adoption of the National Uniform Medication Program. There is a split in Thoroughbred racing between those who believe state-by-state adoption of model medication rules is the best option and those who seek federal authorization for the United States Anti-Doping Agency to take control of the process.
The federal Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015 was unveiled this past spring but hasn’t been scheduled for a committee hearing. A coalition formed earlier this year continues to work on expanding its membership base and lining up bill sponors in the United States House and Senate.
State regulators indicated it could take years for a federal bill to come to a vote in Congress, so they are pursuing other avenues that may not require legislation.
“The political divide that currently exists in the racing industry is destructive to the sport,” said ARCI chairman Mark Lamberth, who added “significant progress has been made and continues to be made on a variety of fronts to implement agreed upon reforms.”
Lamberth Dec. 15 said the ARCI Compliance Committee he formed earlier this year has identified, in specific jurisdictions, issues that have been an obstacle to achieving uniformity.
“We believe it is time to take a holistic approach to these issues and develop a consensus on how to achieve this,” said ARCI president Ed Martin. “Currently, there is an agreement to disagree and an industry that’s not unified. There is a tug-of-war over who has the best plan. We think we can build a consensus with the major organizations.”
ARCI said it will hold forums across the United States with racing industry stakeholders, participants, and fans in an attempt to find common ground and a workable solution. Martin said regulators hope to get input in town hall meetings and then hold smaller stakeholder meetings.
ARCI said the board “didn’t rule in or out possible federal legislation yet to be drafted” but also said it may not be necessary. For instance, racing commissions as a matter of practice approve the signals racetracks import for simulcast purposes and the out-of-state outlets that receive their signals; if a track in another state wasn’t in compliance with model medication rules, a regulatory agency could withhold simulcast approval.