07/31/2013 12:44PM

RCI approves points system for drug penalties


A group that issues model-rules recommendations to all U.S. racing jurisdictions endorsed a new points-based system to penalize medication violations during a full board meeting on Wednesday in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., officials in the organization said.

The board of the Association of Racing Commissioners International voted to endorse the proposal one day after two of its committees, the Drug Testing Standards and Practices Committee and the Model Rules Committee, voted to recommend that the board approve the system, the officials said. The proposal will now be forwarded to all 38 U.S. racing jurisdictions with the recommendation that the states adopt the rules.

If the new scheme is adopted at the state level, it will significantly alter how medication violations are penalized in the U.S. Under the system, which is similar to how points are assigned to driving licenses for traffic violations, trainers would accrue points for individual medication violations based on the severity of the drug and would be handed additional suspensions and fines when points exceeded certain thresholds.

Ed Martin, the executive director of the RCI, said on Wednesday just after the vote that the proposal was endorsed with several “minor” changes to a proposal that had been distributed to major racing organizations four months ago. The changes did not include any modifications to how the points will be distributed or the levels that will trigger additional sanctions, Martin said.

“We think we’ve got it right,” Martin said. “It’s better and stronger than it was.”

The proposal came close to being rejected on Tuesday afternoon in the Model Rules Committee after sailing through the Drug Testing Standards and Practices Committee earlier in the day, according to officials who are members of the committees. According to the officials, representatives of several minor racing jurisdictions objected to the proposal and threatened to torpedo it. The meeting was called off early in the afternoon, but after supporters of the proposal worked back-room channels, the meeting was reconvened and the proposal was endorsed by a majority of the members, the officials said.

The controversy over the rules at the committee level may indicate that the proposal will face an uphill battle in some racing jurisdictions. However, Alan Foreman, the chief executive officer of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said that he was confident that nearly all major racing states would approve the new scheme by the end of the year.

“I think nearly everyone has realized how simple this is,” said Foreman, who served on a committee that devised the rules. “If there are any problems down the road, we can fix them.”

For details of the points system, go to: http://www.drf.com/news/rci-proposes-harsh-penalties-repeat-drug-offenders