What happens when federal anti-doping rules launch Monday?

What happens when federal anti-doping rules launch Monday?
Photo: Morgan Sports Law

If the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority receives approval from the Federal Trade Commission on Monday, as it expects, HISA will immediately begin to implement anti-doping and medical control regulations that day.

“We really think it's a momentous occasion and an important day,” HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus said Thursday during a media briefing to discuss the launch. “It will be the first time ever that horse racing has a national, uniform, robust program.”

HISA expects the FTC to sign off on the AMDC regulations Monday because that's the final day of a 60-day waiting period.

Tracks in West Virginia and Louisiana are not covered by HISA regulations because of court injunctions in cases that are pending. And because HISA covers only tracks that export their simulcast signals, Texas and Nebraska are not included because they opted to not export signals. And in states that are covered, not every track will be operating on Monday.

So on Monday, “it's sort of going to be a race to see whether or not Parx or Mahoning takes the first ever ADMC sample under the new program, based on post times about five minutes apart,” Lazarus said.

“In the very first moments, you'll see iPads, the paperless collection system,” Lazarus said. “We're going to have the laboratories harmonized. We have six laboratories, so a small group of laboratories, taking tests, they'll be harmonized on both the substances and the levels at which they're calling positives.”

Noting that “it's a huge undertaking, it's a huge program,” Lazarus said, “I can't say that we won't have a couple of things here and there that we need to fix or tweak or that will be perfect. But I feel incredibly confident about where we're going, the team that we have in place, and that we're operationally ready for Monday.”

One change that Lazarus explained is that the substance-testing kits and shipping processes are standardized.

“When we did our audits of state racing commissions, they were all over the map with how they collected samples,” she said. “So the kit is standardized, shipping is standardized, so they have to be shipped out either day out or next day. There were lots of states that were keeping samples five, six, seven days. That's not going to be allowed anymore. And then the manner in which the chain of custody is followed is also now standardized.”

Samples will be processed by one of six laboratories that have a contract with the Horseracing Integrity & Welfare Unit, an independent agency formed to administer the rules and enforcement mechanisms of the ADMC program.

When a positive is detected for a controlled medication, one that is allowed to be administered outside of the race period, “the person responsible, the person who is actually in our HISA portal as being the responsible person for the horse, which is typically the trainer, will be notified. If there's an owner registered with us, they'll also be notified,” Lazarus said.

They could accept the sanction, which for a first-time finding of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as phenylbutazone, would be disqualification of the purse and a $500 fine.

The responsible people also can ask for a B sample, or they can skip the B sample and ask for a hearing.

“That hearing will go before an internal adjudication panel, which is essentially staffed with either current stewards, who will hear cases outside their jurisdiction, or other equine anti-doping experts who have been selected by HIWU, as capable and qualified to hear these types of cases,” Lazarus explained. “They'll issue a decision. Again, the responsible person can either accept that decision or appeal it, and that appeal would be with the Federal Trade Commission, and then it kind of goes on to the federal courts, an administrative law judge, etcetera. The decisions will be communicated to the public within 20 days of a decision being rendered.”

The notification process is the same for a banned substance, Lazarus said, but the horse and the trainer would be immediately suspended “even before the B sample comes back. That's because a substance on the banned substance list should never be in a horse. And so we consider it to be a lot more serious.

“They can request a provisional hearing as early as 48 hours from notification if they believe they have some compelling evidence or reason that would basically motivate an arbitrator to lift the suspension,” she said. “They have the chance to bring that to the arbitrator very quickly and get a provisional decision. But other than that, they have the same rights, they can either accept it and accept the sanction, they can appeal.”

One difference in banned-substance cases is that decision will be made by an “arbitral body, which is basically private arbitrators, judges, who are lawyers who are very well qualified in anti-doping in cases who've been appointed by JAMS, which is our partner on the arbitration side to hear these cases. And they also have to go through kind of an education process to be eligible to hear these cases.”

One point that is “helpful to know,” Lazarus said, "is that under the HISA statute everybody starts on a clean slate. So if you're a trainer that has like three prior violations, you start with zero priors. Now, if you're serving a suspension under a state racing commission decision, you still have to serve that out. Any actual suspensions will still be obviously honored. And even if a sample is taken on March 26 and there's a positive test, then the state racing officials will still have the jurisdiction to prosecute and take that test forward.”

Lazarus understands that there is resistance to the changes.

“One of the things I think that's a bit more challenging for me to communicate around,” she said, “but I've really sort of been doing my best, is that when when I asked a lot of these folks, what would you want out of an anti-doping program, what they say is, we want to catch the cheaters, want you to be realistic and measured about medications, and we want you to understand that sometimes there are contaminants in the environment that we can't control. And that's exactly what our program does …”

And Lazarus is confident that horsemen are familiar enough with what’s coming that the adjustment won’t be difficult. Her agency has been “trying to reach every channel, every horseman, every time, every race track to make sure everyone's educated. But my view is that if you're paying even a little bit of attention, and you're kind of doing things the right way, you'll be fine under the new program.”

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