Charles Scheeler, newly-elected chairperson of the board of directors for the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, said that there’s a lot which is still TBD for the new governing authority for horse racing. Scheeler appeared on a media call June 2 to discuss the authority’s progress so far after being elected at the authority’s inaugural meeting on May 27.
The authority, which is set to take over horse racing regulation in summer 2022, is still finding its feet. Scheeler was unable to specifically site any one state or organization’s rules or model rules that would be picked up by the new group to govern medication use or safety policy. The rule-making for medication use and safety practices is left up to separate committees, which were just formed in early May.
It also remains unclear where the money will come for drug testing under the new authority — or how much that will cost. Scheeler anticipated that as work continues on the new group, committee members will come up with a budget for drug testing and other costs, and then determine how to charge the portions of the industry covered by Horseracing Safety and Integrity Act. He said he hoped that a larger scale drug testing contract and improved test selection procedures could reduce the per-test bill from what jurisdictions currently pay.
Scheeler pointed out that the authority could allow for more intelligence-based post-race testing, rather than requiring tests be conducted on finishers in certain positions (although that is already an option for stewards in some places). He also emphasized that boots on the ground will be a big part of the new anti-doping controls, acknowledging, as many experts have before him, that the most sophisticated cheaters tend to stay a step ahead of testing technology.
“Another piece that we want to add in a very powerful way is an investigative component to serve as a deterrent,” he said. “You will see in other sports that the greatest deterrents have often come out of non-test cases, like BALCO, like Biogenesis, like the recent work of 5Stones … some folks look at it, not as ‘Should I play fair or not?’ but as a very cold cost/benefit analysis. We have to make them see the costs or the risks are greater than the rewards.”
Scheeler also believes that there will be an increased focus on out-of-competition testing (OOCT) under the new authority to complement that investigative component.
“There is definitely going to be more emphasis on out-of-competition testing, but I would not necessarily assume it comes at the expense of after-competition testing because that will remain in a fully robust form,” he said.
Scheeler also anticipates that the authority will adopt some kind of system like the current multiple medication violation penalty scheme, which increases the minimum fines and suspensions handed to a trainer or owner for repeated drug offenses in the same category.
Scheeler declined to speculate too much on how the Medina Spirit case may have been handled differently under the new authority, but did point out that the case has revealed some differences in betamethasone regulation between states. Under the new authority, rules and testing will be uniform. He also hopes the new authority can serve as a central communication center to the general public to help them understand how the sport is regulated and why — something the current state commission system can’t allow for.
Scheeler is a retired partner from DLA Piper and served as head counsel to former Sen. George Mitchell during his investigation of doping in Major League Baseball. Scheeler has also been involved in investigations of the Pennsylvania State University’s compliance with national athletic organizations and the health and safety practices at the University of Maryland’s football program.
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