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.”