By Matt Hegarty
Horsemen on the Eastern Seaboard are raising concerns about a new policy scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1 that would allow the New York State Racing and Wagering Board to compel trainers to send horses that are based out of state into New York for out-of-competition drug testing.
While horsemen support the concept of out-of-competition testing, they are concerned that the out-of-state provision in the policy is arbitrary and unenforceable, according to Alan Foreman, the legal counsel to the National Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, an organization that includes New York’s horsemen’s group. Under a provision of the rule, the board can demand that a trainer stabled within 100 miles of a New York track send his horses into the state for drug tests, even if the horses are located out of state. If the trainer refuses, the board can declare the trainer’s horses ineligible to race in New York for 120 days.
"Someone has to tell me why it’s 100 miles," Foreman said. "Why not 150 miles or 1,000 miles? It’s arbitrary. And so if a trainer stabled 100 miles away has to ship in, what happens to the guy who is stabled 110 miles away?"
The board approved the rule at a meeting on Dec. 14. Except for the out-of-state provision, the regulations are based on a model rule that has been adopted in several states, including neighboring New Jersey and Delaware. The rule allows regulators to test urine and drug samples days, weeks, or months before horses are scheduled to race, in an effort to guard against the use of long-acting drugs like blood-doping agents and powerful painkillers such as cobra venom.
Joe Mahoney, a spokesman for the board, said that the out-of-state provision to the rule would allow the board to act on intelligence it receives regarding trainers who regularly ship in to race at state tracks.
"This will allow us to go after those people we are hearing things about," Mahoney said.
Under the rules, regulators will be able to draw blood and urine samples unannounced from horses stabled in New York as long as the commission "has reason to believe" that a horse will start at a state racetrack within the next 180 days, according to Mahoney. The board can apply the same criteria to its request to test out-of-state horses.
Rick Violette, president of the New York horsemen’s group, said the organization submitted a list of concerns to the board in July after the board first posted the rule. Those concerns focused on the board’s decision to craft a rule that is different from the model rule being adopted in other states.
"There’s no question out-of-competition testing is a viable means of policing any sport, but the rule needs tweaking," Violette said. "In a time when we’re begging for standards from state to state, this is not the time for New York to adopt a different rule, especially when we’re dealing with a new rule."