The debate over illegal use of race-day medication has been coming to head in the United States for some time, with many believing proposed federal legislation is essential for the health and prosperity of the industry. Others are not so keen. The situation came into focus at The Jockey Club Round Table conference in Saratoga Springs in August, when Jockey Club chairman Stuart Janney III was critical of recent events in Pennsylvania (as reported by the Paulick Report).
Janney spoke of "nearly universal cheating; regulators asleep on the job; a corrupted and ineffectual testing system". He said "[Pennsylvania's problem] gives all of racing a black eye".
His comments drew a hostile response from Russell Redding, Pennsylvania's Department of Agriculture Secretary and chairman of the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission (SHRC), who denied there was evidence to back up many of Janney's claims, and accused the Jockey Club chair of "spreading misinformation". Redding urged Janney to undertake "more thorough research" in future when making statements about Pennsylvania's SHRC. Redding's letter to Janney is available here.
Yesterday Janney responded. He stood by his claims, and provided evidence to back them up. We reproduce Janney's letter of reply in its entirety below. It makes shocking reading.
Stuart Janney's letter
Dear Mr. Redding,
I am writing with regard to your letter to me of September 26, 2017.
As the breed registry for Thoroughbreds in North America, The Jockey Club has a deep appreciation for Pennsylvania’s horse racing and breeding industries. According to The Jockey Club Fact Book, in 2016 Pennsylvania was the sixth largest producer of Thoroughbred foals in the United States and distributed more than $100 million in purses.
The Jockey Club, a not-for-profit organization in operation since 1894, has long pursued its mission as an organization dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing. As such it has long taken an active role in working toward the betterment of the racing industry. Considering this, one can clearly understand The Jockey Club’s interest in matters affecting the safety and integrity of racing in Pennsylvania.
Representatives of The Jockey Club and other industry organizations recently reached out to Pennsylvania’s State Horse Racing Commission (SHRC) but did not receive a response, so I appreciate your opening this dialogue.
As for my remarks at the Round Table Conference in Saratoga Springs in August, I stand by them and I deny that I spread misinformation. Further, contrary to your contention otherwise, I did not confuse the actions of the SHRC with those of the veterinarians and horsemen involved in the Murray Rojas matter.
In my view, the Rojas trial provided ample support for the conclusion that, during the time in question, there were indeed “regulators asleep on the job” and that there was a “corrupted and ineffectual testing system”.
Please consider the following:
• During her testimony under oath, trainer Stephanie Beattie estimated that 95% to 98% of trainers at Penn National had their veterinarians provide race-day medications to horses in violation of the rules, adding, “It was a known practice.” [Testimony of Stephanie Beattie in U.S. v. Rojas of June 26, 2017, page 23.]
• Beattie testified that she had violated Pennsylvania’s medication rules a “majority of the times” amounting to “thousands” of violations. [Testimony of Stephanie Beattie, page 43.]
That any trainer might testify as Beattie did is alarming. However, it becomes downright incendiary when the person testifying about such pervasive cheating was both the president of Pennsylvania’s Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association and the second in command (first regional vice president) of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association at the time in question.
Ms. Beattie’s testimony was supported by veterinarian Fernando Motta, who testified under oath that at Penn National administering race-day medications to horses (other than Lasix) was “the procedure” and was “what everyone was expected to do”. [Testimony of Fernando Motta in U.S. v. Rojas of June 23 & 26, 2017, page 18.] Further, he testified that most, if not all, trainers were doing the same thing as Rojas. [Testimony of Fernando Motta, pages 134-5.]
Dr. Motta also testified that he improperly administered medications on race days perhaps “thousands” of times. [Testimony of Fernando Motta, page 101.]
Dr. Mary Robinson, then acting director and now director of the Pennsylvania Equine Toxicology Research Laboratory (PETRL) testified at the Rojas trial that the PETRL:
o Did not have tests for a number of the drug treatments given to horses on race day [testimony of Mary Robinson in U.S. v. Rojas of June 27, 2017, page 11],
o Was not testing for every drug every day [testimony of Mary Robinson, page4 0], and
o Acting under its “standard operating procedure 151”, PETRL would mix urine samples from two horses before screening for various drugs. She added that the mixing of samples would corrupt an individual sample by diluting any prohibited substance in an individual sample [testimony of Mary Robinson, pages 17, 18 and 25].
The above referenced testimony — that 95% to 98% of trainers were cheating on a daily basis, that Ms. Beattie and Dr. Motta were both able to impermissibly drug horses on race days a “thousand times”, that PETRL did not have tests for numerous regulated drugs, that they were regularly not testing for all regulated drugs, and that they were deliberately diluting and corrupting certain testing samples — provides ample evidence in support of my conclusions that there were “regulators asleep on the job” and that there was a “corrupted and ineffectual testing system”.
I still do not understand how Ms. Beattie was somehow able to maintain her Pennsylvania trainer’s license despite her “thousands” of violations. Thankfully, her license is currently suspended, not as a result of all of those violations but, rather, for having a court judgment against her for failing to pay race-related expenses to Neil’s Turf Supply. [SHRC Ruling No. 17237PN.]
In your letter, you also challenged my reference to the actions and inactions of Tom Chuckas, Pennsylvania’s current director of Thoroughbred Racing, by stating that I was “implying some connection between [him] . . . and conduct which took place years previously”.
I did no such thing, and so, in this instance, it is you who is spreading “misinformation”.
I called out Mr. Chuckas for failing to explain to the public about how the pervasive cheating testified to at the Rojas trial got past the SHRC. From my perspective, the current head of the organization in question should be the person to speak to the public regarding such important matters.
Additionally, for the record, there was no official public response from the SHRC to the outcry resulting from the SHRC’s arbitrary decision to break all racing precedent and declare two winners for the 2016 Parx Oaks when there was no dead-heat.
However, I am not sure that it is appreciated how badly the SHRC’s decision in the Parx Oaks matter damages the racing industry (since you failed to reference it in your letter).
This decision will have lasting, negative downstream effects on virtually all facets of the horse racing industry. Bettors will likely not be sure who actually won a race when there are two “winners” but no dead heat. Stallion/mare owners may not be able to accurately access the quality and racing history of breeding stock related to the Parx Oaks “winners”, and buyers at horse sales years later will likely not know about how a foal’s parent achieved first place black-type status without truly winning a race.
Leaving these matters behind, The Jockey Club recognizes and applauds the SHRC’s recent decision to implement horse-positive regulations and penalties, especially since it is the first state to do so. Declaring a horse ineligible to race after it tests positive for a Class 1 or Class 2 drug anywhere in the country should certainly be a deterrent to potential cheaters.
Likewise, the recent adoption of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium’s model rule for Multiple Medication Violation penalties is also heartening.
Further, news reports [on Monday] indicate that Pennsylvania is in the process of undertaking multiple, possibly significant integrity-related investigations. To the extent that this is the case, I believe that such actions are another step in the right direction.
One area that could certainly use more focus by the SHRC is to more widely and transparently announce its current medication rules. Our staff has been reviewing Pennsylvania’s current medication use regulations and we have found them to be presented on a piecemeal and likely contradictory basis. Other states make their medication regulations publicly available in a centralized and up-to-date manner. We encourage Pennsylvania to do the same.
Taking a broader perspective, I also believe that there is much further to go in terms of ensuring the integrity of our nation’s races and protecting our racing athletes. We learned many disturbing things through the Rojas matter, and I believe that these are emblematic of the numerous shortcomings of the anti-doping programs in this nation’s many racing jurisdictions.
Recognizing the many problems with the current state-by-state anti-doping regulatory scheme, members of Congress recently introduced the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017 (H.R. 2651). When enacted, it would provide the horse racing industry with a single set of uniform drug testing rules and enforcement protocols that would be brought into effect and managed by an independent, not-for-profit anti-doping organization created specifically for that task.
Until such time as H.R. 2651 becomes law, we are hopeful that, with your involvement, the SHRC will continue its recent activities toward implementing integrity-related initiatives and that they will be accomplished in a manner that enhances the safety and welfare of horses and riders in accordance with the best practices the industry has to offer.