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Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (PTHA)

  /  Legislative   /  PA Equine Coalition Applauds State Horse Racing Commission for Suspending Occupational Licenses of Individuals Under Indictment

PA Equine Coalition Applauds State Horse Racing Commission for Suspending Occupational Licenses of Individuals Under Indictment

Pennsylvania’s racing industry supports a level playing field; integrity of sport

and welfare of horse requires bad actors be held accountable


HARRISBURG, PA –The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition applauded the swift action taken by the State Horse Racing Commission to suspend the occupational licenses of 11 individuals following indictments and charges that were announced earlier this week by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.  The indictments, which are national in scope, allege that 27 trainers, veterinarians, and others took part in an international scheme to cheat in horse races using misbranded and adulterated drugs.

The suspensions address the 11 individuals who were indicted and hold occupational licenses issued by the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission as owners, trainers, grooms, and drivers to participate in horse racing in the state.  The other 16 individuals who were charged by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York do not hold occupations licenses in the Commonwealth. The suspensions were approved on Wednesday, March 11 by the Bureau Directors for the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission.

“Pennsylvania’s horsemen, trainers, and breeder organizations welcome any effort to hold accountable those who would seek to cheat and endanger the welfare of horses through the illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs,” said Pete Peterson, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition, which represents horsemen and trainers at the state’s six thoroughbred and harness racing tracks and the two statewide Thoroughbred and Standardbred breeder organizations.  “The overwhelming majority of horsemen, trainers, and breeders are hard-working, honest people who care about the horses in their care and want a fair, level playing field to rightfully earn purses through their talent and hard work.”

The suspensions are allowed under the authority granted to the State Horse Racing Commission by the Race Industry Reform Act, which was approved by the legislature in 2016 with the support of Pennsylvania’s horsemen and breeder associations.  The suspensions will be enforced pending a final resolution of the criminal charges against the individuals.

The state’s horsemen and breeder associations have strongly supported efforts to identify bad actors. As part of Pennsylvania’s Race Horse Industry Reform Act of 2016, they agreed to pay for the cost of drug testing from money that was previously dedicated to purses. Over the past four years the industry has allocated approximately $40 million – more than $10 million per year – to greatly expand the amount and frequency of the drug tests conduct by the State Horse Racing Commission. The associations also supported the creation of an out-of-competition testing program as part of the Race Horse Industry Reform Act of 2016. This was a groundbreaking change and permitted regulators to test racehorses for the presence of illegal medications randomly and at any time without advance notice to the trainer or owner.

Following the announcement of the indictments on Monday, leaders in Pennsylvania’s horse racing and breeding industry have spoken out about the importance of maintaining integrity in racing and protecting the health and welfare of horses.

“It’s essential to the administration of justice and to the health of our industry for anyone with knowledge of possible illegal activity to cooperate with law enforcement authorities,” said Russell Williams of the Standardbred Breeders Association of Pennsylvania.  Williams also serves as President of the United States Trotting Association and President and CEO of Hanover Shoe Farm, which is located in Adams County, Pennsylvania and is the largest Standardbred horse breeder in the world.  “It is imperative that our sport is conducted fairly and with integrity.”

“There is no place for people who use or facilitate the use of illegal, performance enhancing drugs in our sport,” said Mike Ballezzi, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which represents owners and trainers at Parx Racetrack in Bensalem.  “Those individuals who deliberately violate the rules and regulations should not be permitted to participate in racing.“

“Maintaining integrity in the sport of racing and protecting the welfare of horses are top priorities for our members,” said Brian Sanfratello, Executive Secretary of the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association. “In June 2018, our organizations funded ground-breaking research at New Bolton Center to help combat gene doping, develop bio-banks, and ensure there is a level playing field for those who participate in racing.”

About the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition

The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition is a statewide organization that represents more than 10,000 owners, trainers, drivers, and breeders in Pennsylvania’s horse racing and breeding industry.  Our member organizations include the state’s s six horsemen and breeder associations, including: the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association, the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the Standardbred Breeders Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association, and the Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Contact:               Pete Peterson, 215-990-8928, [email protected]