01/26/2016 5:57PM

New York adopts points system for multiple medication violations


NEW YORK – New York horsemen who repeatedly commit medication violations will be subject to additional penalties under a points system adopted Tuesday by the New York State Gaming Commission.

In line with a national model rule proposed in December 2014 and revised last summer by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, trainers would accrue points based on the class of medication and whether the drug’s intended use is for therapeutic purposes.

If a trainer accrues 3 to 5 1/2 points in a certain time frame, an additional 30-day suspension will be imposed on top of the penalty given for the underlying offense. Trainers who accrue 6 to 8 1/2 points receive an additional 60 days; 9 to 10 1/2 points an additional 180 days; and 11 points or more results in a one-year suspension.

Though the rule doesn’t go into effect in New York until Feb. 10, violations pertaining to a Class C or D drug that occurred since Jan. 1, 2014, will not count against a trainer’s record.

Robert Williams, the executive director of the state gaming commission, said the rule has the support of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and the New York Racing Association.

The multiple medication violation rule was one of several new measures formally adopted Tuesday at the gaming commission’s monthly meeting held in Manhattan.

The commission adopted a rule that no longer makes it mandatory for every claimed horse to undergo post-race drug testing. Some claimed horses will still undergo testing at the stewards’ discretion, and the rule does allow for a claimant to request a drug test but at their expense.

Williams said this rule will save the commission approximately $270,000, which will be repurposed for equine drug testing and research. Williams also noted that in 2015 there were five instances when a claimed horse tested positive, but only once did the claimant request to void the claim.

The gaming commission adopted threshold levels and withdrawal times for albuterol, cobalt, and isoflupredone (a corticosteroid), bringing them in line with national guidelines established by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.

The commission also heard a presentation by Dr. Scott Palmer, the state’s equine medical director, regarding feedback from several industry stakeholders regarding new rule proposals in New York in the wake of the investigation into trainer Steve Asmussen’s barn that was prompted by an undercover investigation by the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

In November, following an 18-month investigation into allegations of abuse, the commission fined Asmussen $10,000, the impetus of which was for overuse of thyroxine, a hormone made from the thyroid gland, in some instances within 48 hours of a race, which constituted a violation.

The commission proposed a number of rules changes designed to address concerns with exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage or EIPH, the use of specific drugs or types of drugs, such as thyroxine and similar substances that regulate metabolism, “and the general concern we all have with protecting horses from inappropriate overuse of therapeutic drugs or the use of non-therapeutic drugs and other substances with potent effects on a horse involved in horse racing,” Palmer said.

“While the objectives may be simple, we realize that the rulemaking language is difficult to construct, particularly in the definition of ‘medically unnecessary’ treatments, but this is an effort to move forward as an industry to address this important problem,” Palmer added.

The commission is also doing more research into the use of Lasix in New York and even exploring the feasibility of Lasix-free races. Williams said he was asked by the commission members to document the success or lack thereof of Lasix-free races in other jurisdictions and “can you do it? What are the implications? What are the ethical implications?” of doing it, Williams said.

The commission also heard a presentation from the Jockeys’ Guild over use of the whip. Williams said the commission is undergoing “a fact-finding effort” to see if New York needs to adopt a new whip rule or alter the way the current one is applied.

Separately, NYRA has discussed – but has not yet implemented – a house rule similar to one in use in southern California where a rider may only whip the horse three times before giving it an opportunity to respond and then whipping again.

According to the Guild, California stewards have issued 125 fines and 13 suspensions to a total of 69 different jockeys.

In a written presentation given to the commission, the Guild has asked the gaming commission to postpone NYRA’s “adoption or implementation of this rule.”

Further, the Guild is seeking a model whip rule for all jurisdictions to adopt that also includes a provision that in the final sixteenth of a mile “the jockey should be able to use the riding crop with discretion and their best effort to obtain maximum placing,” according to the Guild’s proposal.

In other items at the meeting:

The gaming commission suspended owner/trainer Roy Sedlacek five years for two medication positives he incurred in the fall of 2015 at Belmont Park. The drug in question, known as AH-7921, is a synthetic opiate similar to morphine. It was found in the horses Bossmon, who ran fourth in the second race on Oct. 11, and Literata, who won the second race on Oct. 18.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the consequences of violations pertaining to a Class C or D drug that occurred since Jan. 1, 2014. They will not count against a trainer’s record.