04/29/2014 3:46PM

Violette critical of Jockey Club's stance on medication

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Barbara D. Livingston

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Trainer Rick Violette believes there are Thoroughbred industry leaders – specifically members of The Jockey Club – who are doing more to submarine the sport than to advance it.

Violette, who trains Kentucky Derby contender Samraat, is the head of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. He believes The Jockey Club is using the recent allegations by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals of abuse of horses, including the overuse of therapeutic medication, against trainer Steve Asmussen to push its agenda for totally medication-free racing, including the banishment of Lasix. Attempts to have Lasix banned have not advanced.

Violette believes The Jockey Club has failed to actively support the national uniform medication program that would establish the same rules regarding 26 therapeutic medications in every racing jurisdiction that would adopt it. So far, five states have formally adopted those rules, six states are awaiting formal adoption from their racing commissions, and another seven states are in the adoption process.

“We only should be talking about the national medication reform that’s happening – it’s a great thing, not a good thing,” Violette said Wednesday at Churchill Downs. “It’s something that people have asked for decades to have the same medication policies across the states. We’ve been doing it in New York for a year; we’ve lowered the breakdown rate by 40 percent. That’s huge. It’s less than the national average, less than synthetic racetracks, and it gets backhanded support accompanied by threats. It’s outrageous.”

The threats to which Violette is referring is a recent letter by Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps, chairman of The Jockey Club, in which he proposes federal legislation to have the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency oversee racing’s medication policies.

Violette said racing is close to having a unified policy regarding the use of medications that includes regulatory thresholds and withdrawal guidelines of drugs as well as the third-party administration of Lasix, a drug used to prevent horses from bleeding.

“It’s never as fast as you want it to be, but these states are committed, and they’re moving,” Violette said. “What has The Jockey Club done? What has anybody else done as far as any movement except for trying to blackmail people? I’m a pragmatist. Accomplish what you can accomplish, and up till now, this was not accomplishable. Having the same medications coast to coast, the same testing protocols, the same levels, it’s a great thing.”

Violette said that if racing had a national commissioner as in other sports, that person would tell The Jockey Club “to shut up.”

“Their conduct wouldn’t be tolerated in any other industry or any other league format,” Violette said. “They have a rules committee in the offseason in other sports, and they talk about rule changes. They make some, they don’t make some; when they announce them, everybody shuts up.

“There might be a little grumbling, but nobody can go on the war path and carpet bomb the industry because they didn’t get the rule change that they want,” Violette added. “[Banning] Lasix has gone through all the committees . . . it didn’t get any traction. The science doesn’t support their version of what Lasix is.”

Maureen Tierney More than 1 year ago
Basically, the uniform medication rules are saying these are the 26 drugs that we will allow trainers to abuse. That is the fact. There is no real reform.
Maureen Tierney More than 1 year ago
I am against the uniform medication reform. It is just a token advance with no real change. Their should be far less medication allowed, and no race day medication. It's been clear for a long time that therapeutic medications are being abused. We need a strong governing body to protect the horses.
FromHorsesMouth More than 1 year ago
The should be NO race day medications. No professional sport allows drugs of any kind. The sport needs to be a clean and fair to all sport!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
No sport? Pro football allows lots of pain killing injections every game day.
rapidcolon More than 1 year ago
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Brenda Alexander Edney More than 1 year ago
uniform drug laws for all states would be great. ny should be the same as kentucky and so on. avg starts per horse have gone down because purses are so big now, saratoga has 80,000 maiden races . horses do not have to run so much now. abuse of horses will not be tolerated and violators should be dealt with harshly.im surprised asmussen is still training. bettors have to protected, but rules must not be broken for profit. thank you paul saratoga
Kingsley Rose More than 1 year ago
u people can all talk how many of u are trainer...i support the trainers.....its gambling.. name of the game is win
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Again, in English this time
Ann Maree More than 1 year ago
Supporting medication reform without including ridding the sport of Lasix is no reform. The public will not understand the various nuances between legal and illegal drugs, illegal uses of legal drugs, etc. The public will understand what it means to get rid of the main issue that has caused the decline of the sport. There is no getting around the cold, hard facts: Since the introduction of Lasix and the increased usage that includes all horses whether they actually might need the drug or not, the number of annual starts per horse has dropped from 10.23 in 1975 to 6.32 in 2013, a 38% decline. During that time other things have changed as well, with more reliance by trainers on pharmacologically adapting the horse to the needs of the sport, instead of adjusting the sport to the limitations of the horse. (paraphrasing Hong Kong Jockey Club's reasons for no raceday meds.) To say that banning Lasix has no traction is to put one's head in the sand. The trainers have had a strangle-hold on the sport by defining the word "horsemen" in the 1978 Horseracing Act as meaning just the trainers and not all industry stakeholders. They hijacked and steamrolled and threatened to take away the simulcasting rights for the Breeders' Cup, and the Breeders' Cup had to back down to require all horses to race without medication in 2013. It's time the trainers realized who pays the bills, certainly not them. The Bettors are getting robbed, the horses are being filled with legal drugs, never-mind the illegal ones, trainers rely more on the pharmacy than old-fashioned horsemanship. Comments like those of Mr. Violette are the dying gasp of a group of trainers who have taken the sport down this road and refuse to see they are the ones killing the sport. It's the tail wagging the dog. Reform must include joining with the rest of the world and getting rid of race day medications, including Lasix.
John Howland More than 1 year ago
Very well said.Allowing trainers to make pivotal decisions in this industry is simply wrong.Imagine if a successful business,one day, decided to let the boys in the mail room make pivotal decisions.That business would be "out of business" in a week.
Dennis Michela More than 1 year ago
I agree 100%
nick More than 1 year ago
If the U. S. ADA is good enough to oversee the U. S. Olympic athletic program, it should.be good enough to oversee thoroughbred racing. Imagine a steward being able to knock on Todd Pletcher's door at 2:00 PM on a Tuesday and say he needs a blood sample from certain horses. It's just like John Lennon's song 'Imagine', we can right now only dream of a time when this might come to fruition . . . Go, Jockey Club, Go Jockey Club . . .
patrick owens More than 1 year ago
It's amazing to me that trainers continue to cop out, blame, complain.... "threats", "blackmail?" What the hell is he talking about? How about some specifics? There is not enough accountability in horseracing, and naturally those who would be held accountable are complaining the most. Why not support change? Provided the regulatory body in charge keeps the playing field level, i.e. same for everybody, whats the problem? Do these trainers realize how their obstanance on this problem makes them look? Like ungrateful children. The best will still win with more regulation, the fakers will fall away, and the average player will be better served.
Richard Land More than 1 year ago
PETA/Asmussen was an orchestrated inside job. PETA receives plenty of hush money from racing insiders to assure that they are somewhere protecting laboratory animals or attacking celebrities wearing fur instead of forming human chains at the gates of every racetrack in North America. PETA/Asmussen gave Phipps and Co. an opening to continue to pursue their agenda. The American thoroughbred gene pool has been so diluted that it is unlikely that, as a breed, American thoroughbreds could endure racing without medication, not to mention that there is an entire generation of horse trainers who would be totally lost without lasix and race day bute.