USTA President Russell Williams’ response to Jeff Gural on letter to USTA Directors regarding Federal Legislation
Your question probably deserves a fuller reply than this, but I have been very busy with the lawyers so this is the best I can come up with on short notice.
State racing commissions are answerable to the executive and, ultimately, legislative branches of their state governments. They are accountable. The HISA Authority is not accountable. The FTC’s role is passive and symbolic at most. It would literally take an act of Congress, as the old saying goes, to do anything about malfeasance or wrongheadedness at the Authority. Turning decisions over to this “self-regulating” private entity would be a tragic step backward.
The bill makes a couple of head fakes in the direction of breed-specific rules, but it lacks the mandatory language necessary to make sure the Authority actually makes such rules where appropriate. The work of getting ARCI to recognize the need for breed-specific rules was herculean. The work of obtaining actual breed-specific rules continues and, despite our submission of a considerable amount of scientific study and data on three different medications, we are still waiting for our first breed-specific rule. The Harness Racing Medication Collaborative would have to be given a substantial role in the federal rulemaking process.
The federal bill, as Rep. Schrader recently pointed out, is not based on veterinary science. Thoroughbred interests, particularly RMTC, have plagued our efforts to get breed-specific rules. Yet the RMTC does not disclose most of the science it claims to support medication rules it makes. Instead, RMTC members argue in scientific committee meetings that changing medication levels or administration times would be bad “optics.” Therapeutic medication rules should be based on what is therapeutic for the horse, not on optics. The bill needs to be drafted so as to prevent the use of anyone’s subjective idea of optics to influence the Authority’s decisions.
I am sorry that you appear to have bought into the Lasix hoax. Lasix is not performance-enhancing any more than any other permitted, therapeutic medication is. It cannot mask other substances. Jeff, this is the science and you must accept it. In other countries they give furosemide every training (exercise stressed) day other than race day, and on the day the horse is stressed beyond all others, they withhold it. That is inhumane. Certain Thoroughbred interests have seized on Lasix as a public distraction from the fact that many catastrophic Thoroughbred breakdowns come from the stress of racing, not Lasix. You can’t repeatedly pound a single leg with half a ton of force over a distance without periodic breakdowns. The runners were out there snapping legs every week before Lasix was approved for use in humans in 1964, and they would still be out there snapping legs if it were banned.
Obviously this bill wouldn’t have a prayer if Congress had to appropriate public money to pay for it. As it is, there has been no serious discussion of what the Authority might cost and how that cost might be equitably distributed among racing participants. A $45 per-start fee has been thrown out there, but we have shown that per-start fees are grossly unfair to Standardbreds. We would have to know what the costs would be and how they would be shared before we could support this bill. In any case, purse dollars would have to be matched by track dollars, which I’m sure you would agree with.
The bill would have to set up a rational testing program that makes sense for horses. USADA does not offer that. USADA’s entire drug testing program is comparable in size to the racehorse drug testing program in Louisiana. Testing has not been thought through in this bill, and lobbing the matter in USADA’s direction is a recipe for disaster.
Voice of Our Industry
The bill’s provisions for selection of individuals and groups who will be making decisions about us gives us no voice in the process. As stated earlier, the Authority itself is subject to no meaningful oversight. We are not prepared to have our destiny determined in this manner.
Now. Your emails are always revealing, whether or not you intend them to be, and this one is no exception.
The $425,000 was no secret. I explained it in detail in the Finance Committee meeting, the full board approved it, and our work with Gibson Dunn has been discussed in probably every Executive Committee meeting since then. All minutes are public. You’re an astute businessman. Doesn’t it make sense to spend $425,000 once in order to avoid having to spend a useless $13,000,000 every year until the end of time?
Gibson Dunn is one of the pre-eminent law firms in the United States. As you may know, Gibson Dunn won the recent case of Murphy v. Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, which held that the U.S. Congress can’t jerk the states around when it comes to regulating sports betting. You must know this, because sports betting in New Jersey is very important to you, and “Murphy” is the New Jersey governor that you have the boastful relationship with. The firm seemed a natural choice when we decided to investigate whether your federal bill was illegal.
I just received Gibson Dunn’s legal opinion about an hour ago. I’m not going to tip our hand, but I will say that the month that Mitch McConnell spent thinking about your bill was perhaps not enough.
Letter from Meadowlands’ Owner Jeff Gural to USTA Directors
I am reaching out to all of you since I really do not want to get into a public feud with the USTA and I thought I would attach a letter that I sent to Russell on the subject of the HRIA legislation. The reality is this legislation is going to pass. McConnell spent a month reviewing the legislation to make sure it was constitutional and intentionally left the standardbreds out because the thoroughbreds asked him to in order to avoid USTA opposition.
It has been brought to my attention that the USTA had budgeted $425,000 to oppose the legislation even though the organization is operating at a deficit and they had to lay some people off. The bottom line is that the legislation is going to pass and my guess is the states that have thoroughbred racing will not want to have the Feds regulate the thoroughbreds and the states regulate the standardbreds so they will opt in and we will have no input.
I really hope that we can avoid a public fight and that the USTA can identify those areas of the legislation that we need changed and we can focus on those changes. As I mentioned, there are going to be more arrests and the vast majority will likely be standardbred trainers and the optics of us not opting in are going to be awful. Hopefully we can find a solution as I am committed to ridding the industry to the illegal drugs.
GFP Real Estate, LLC
To read the USTA’s statement of opposition to the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, click here.