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Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (PTHA)

  /  Legislative   /  PA Equine Industry Statement on Racing Indictments

PA Equine Industry Statement on Racing Indictments

PA Equine Industry Statement on Racing Indictments

Pennsylvania Equine Coalition

March 10, 2020

PA Stakeholders React to Federal Indictments of Bad Actors in Horse Racing

PA Stakeholders React to Federal Indictments of Bad Actors in Horse Racing

Pennsylvania racing industry say they want a level playing field; integrity of sport and welfare of horse requires bad actors be held accountable

Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition issued the following statement in response to the indictments yesterday by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York alleging that 27 trainers, veterinarians, and others took part in an international scheme to cheat in horse races using misbranded and adulterated drugs. The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition represents horsemen and trainers at the state’s six thoroughbred and harness racing tracks and the two statewide Thoroughbred and Standardbred breeder organizations.

“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.  “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. They condemn cheaters in the sport, which robs them of their chance to rightfully earn purses through their talent and hard work.”

The state’s horsemen and breeder associations have strongly supported efforts to identify bad actors. As part of Pennsylvania’s Racehorse Industry Reform Act of 2016, they agreed to pay for the cost of drug testing from the 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 conducted by the State Horse Racing Commission.

“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. “

The industry also supported the creation of an out-of-competition testing program as part of the Racehorse 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. 

Pennsylvania’s horsemen organizations have also voluntarily donated money on a regular basis to the New Bolton Center to purchase new equipment and develop new technologies and testing methods that enhance their ability to detect the improper administration of medications.  They do so because they recognize that the integrity of the sport needs to be a top priority. For example, in June 2018, the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association (PHBA) donated $300,000 to New Bolton to fund revolutionary research to detect gene doping in equine athletes. Gene doping involves the transfer or modification of genes or genetically modified cells for non-therapeutic purpose to enhance athletic performance.

“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. “We funded this ground-breaking research at New Bolton Center, to help combat gene doping and ensure there is a level playing field for those who participate in racing.”