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Thursday, November 12, 2015

NHBPA CEO Eric Hamelback Responds to Charles Hayward's Commentary on Medication Policies

Charles Hayward, president and publisher of the website Thoroughbred Racing Commentary, wrote a piece published today entitled "This patchwork system of medication polices will be U.S. racing's downfall," which can be viewed here.

Eric Hamelback, CEO of the National HBPA, would like to address several items in the column. The following is Hamelback's response:

I appreciate the intent of the article that Mr. Hayward has put forth. I would, however, like to address a few points that I believe he fails to address.

Mr. Hayward clearly states that horsemen’s groups are comprised of only trainers and gives no credence to the fact that the National HBPA for instance has a weighted licensed membership comprised of 70% owners. Not to mention that the TOC in California is the Thoroughbred Owners Association and it is a completely separate entity from the California Trainers Association (CTA). Mr. Hayward then points to two politically charged state scenarios involving a complete shutdown of racing, one in Pennsylvania and one in Texas. The implication made by Mr. Hayward is that these two situations would have been avoided under the proposed Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act. These two very specific circumstances, revolving around a shortfall of funds to support racing, would not be addressed by HR 3084, as it is intended to be laid out as a MEDICATION piece of legislation. To the contrary, the bill is an unfunded mandate, which would require jurisdictions to lay out money for drug testing outlined by USADA, an organization which has no stake in the industry and with no incentive to keep costs under control, likely spawning additional crises like those seen in PA and TX.

In contrast to the allegation made recently by Jim Gagliano in a Q&A within The Blood-Horse, where he referred to those who oppose the HR 3084 as “misinformed,” it seems as if it is actually the bill’s supporters such as Mr. Hayward who may be “misinformed.” I take great offense to that label. The inference here is that “if USADA” were in charge the financial woes in these two jurisdictions would be resolved or better yet, not even an issue. Really? A simple read through of HR 3084 very clearly conveys that the “intention” of the bill (as one attorney for the coalition stated to me) is to only govern those issues dealing with medication. So then, Mr. Hayward, how at all would these two issues relate towards the allowing of a private organization such as USADA to be in control? In fact, I, as an informed participant in opposition to HR 3084, can clearly see that the funding mechanism as outlined in the bill (completely established by a weighted board of directors) that will allow USADA to be in control will likely cause true “shortfalls” within racing jurisdictions.

The article then references two issues that have arisen with two high profile trainers. What Mr. Hayward fails to mention to his reading audience, but those of us that are informed picked up on, is that both of these instances would have occurred exactly the same way under the proposed legislation. Why, you ask? Because the Motion case deals with a protocol and threshold established by the RMTC, and the Mott case deals with questioning an overage of Lasix given by a third party. Both of these issues that Mr. Hayward brings up are rules held within the ARCI model medication rules. HR 3084 would not have changed the outcome, and in fact, HR 3084 would initially implement the same set of rules which permit these types of problems to occur. Perhaps if our legislators looked more carefully into the reasons why national uniformity has not been adopted, they would pause before charging full steam ahead into forcing federal legislation into place.

It is misinformed articles such as this that mislead our public into perceptions which simply do not reflect reality. While often not conveyed clearly enough, I will tell you that there is not one horsemen’s group out there today that does not stand up for and want to achieve national uniformity. Additionally, we want strict enforcement of testing procedures, harsh penalties for cheaters, and zero tolerance on performance enhancing drugs. We have worked and will continue to work with the ARCI and the RMTC to ensure uniformity is achieved through research and applications that can be properly established with owners and trainers best interest in mind. While I feel that I could go on, hoping to educate further, I will close with your implication of the situation dealing with Mr. Gorajec in Indiana. Mr. Hayward, if you or others believe that any horsemen’s group would have the financial means to politically affect the termination of a state official, I would say respectfully sir, you are misinformed.  Horsemen’s groups are fighting for the rights of horsemen and horsewomen throughout the country and are leaders in the health and welfare treatment of our beloved athletes, the horse. We do this feverishly for the love and preservation of our industry, and I will make sure that message reaches the public. #WheresThePositive

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