Citing the widespread use of drugs on yearlings and two years olds that may result in improper bone development and the recent use of horse auctions to launder money for the drug cartel, the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) is formally calling for the independent regulation of the breeding and sales industries.
“These significant portions of the racing industry are totally unregulated,” said ARCI Chair Jeff Colliton. “If we care about our horses and the integrity of the sport, the racing industry can no longer turn a blind eye to the need to address this shortcoming.”
Bisphosphonates: Need to Regulate Use of Drugs in Horses Intended for Sale.
The ARCI Equine Welfare Committee, chaired by Dr. Corrine Sweeney, met via conference call on November 7, 2017 to discuss the use of Bisphosphonates on horses that race or are intended to race. While this class of legal medication has been specifically approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat navicular disease in older horses, federal law currently does not preclude their use in young horses despite concerns about their safety and research in other mammals showing a link to stress fractures. In horses, stress fractures may contribute to a catastrophic breakdown.
Committee members were concerned about the use of these drugs in young horses amid reports of their widespread use on yearlings and two-year olds to treat pain or get them ready for the auction ring.
Some noted that the bones of horses treated with bisphosphonates may falsely appear to be fully developed when subjected to a radiograph prior to entering the auction ring. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the profit motive for the seller. But this should never be allowed overrule the concerns about the welfare of the horse,” said ARCI President Ed Martin.
There is sentiment within ARCI to outlaw the use of these drugs in young horses, following the lead of the British Horseracing Authority which has banned their use in horses younger than 3.5 years of age. In addition, the published drug policies of the sales companies are more lenient than those adopted by racing commissions governing the conduct of the race, particularly the permitted stacking of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
DRUG MONEY LAUNDERING.
The high-profile US federal investigation and convictions that revealed that the Mexican drug cartel was utilizing quarter horse sales to launder drug money exposed another reason why the breeding and sales aspects of horse racing need to be regulated, Colliton said.
The use of “front” owners and corporations is outlined in the book Bloodlines: The True Story of a Drug Cartel, the FBI, and the Battle for a Horse-Racing Dynasty by Melissa Del Bosque which is reportedly being made into a movie to be released at some point in the future.
Per the noted author Alfredo Corchado whose work has focused on the drug cartels, this case is “a harrowing portrayal of a cartel family’s thirst for power, money and fast horses.” He also notes that this work offers a “a critical, up close look into organized crime’s growing influence over the sport of kings, and the deadly consequences.”
“It is naive to think that this may be an isolated instance in an area of the sport that is unregulated,” ARCI President Ed Martin said. “I know first-hand from my experience in New York that criminal activity can occur right under the nose of the most prominent people in racing.” Martin, as the NY regulator, was instrumental in the 2003 criminal indictment of the New York Racing Association for a federal felony conspiracy to defraud the government, a charge NYRA pled guilty to under a deferred prosecution agreement.
“Equine breakdowns and activities relating to organized crime are damaging to the public image and acceptability of this sport,” he said. “While the conduct of the race is adequately regulated and racing’s anti-doping program is comparable if not superior to corresponding programs in human sport, the above-mentioned issues highlight the limitations of the existing regulatory authority in many ARCI jurisdictions.”
On December 8, 2017, the ARCI Board of Directors adopted the following resolution:
WHEREAS reports that the use of some medications on young horses, yearlings and two year olds, may potentially endanger their proper development as race horses, increasing the potential risk of fractures and catastrophic injury; and,
WHEREAS the use of such drugs on young horses may misrepresent the extent to which bones have developed to potential buyers and may mask ailments or conditions that would not only impact the price paid at auction but affect a future racing career; and,
WHEREAS young horses intended to be racehorses are often beyond the regulatory authority of the racing regulator and their care and development is not subject to any independent oversight; and,
WHEREAS it has also been proven that the sale of racehorses has recently attracted members of the drug cartel who have used racehorses to launder money; and,
WHEREAS both the breeding and sales aspects of the racing industry are un-regulated and outside the regulatory framework that prohibits activities deemed dangerous to the horse or contain the necessary safeguards to deter and detect illegal activity;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that
The Association of Racing Commissions International (ARCI) is in agreement with statements made by Louis Romanet, President of the International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities, indicating that horses should come under the authority of an independent regulatory authority from the moment of birth and throughout their racing career;
The ARCI calls for the expansion of the racing regulatory authority of its members or other suitable entity to include the breeding and sale of race horses and empowers its Officers to begin a conversation with policymakers at all levels and racing industry constituencies to advance this concept and develop all appropriate details.