HOW WOULD THE HORSERACING INTEGRITY AND SAFETY ACT OF 2020 ADDRESS THE BAFFERT CASE IF IT WERE IN EFFECT NOW?

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020 won’t go into effect until July 2022.  But consider how it would pertain to a situation similar to Medina Spirit testing positive for 21 picograms of the anti-inflammatory drug Betamethasone in the Kentucky Derby (a picogram equals one trillionth of a gram) ?  The language in three sections of the Act, shown verbatim below, point to the answer.

“PREEMPTION.—The rules of the Authority promulgated in accordance with this Act shall preempt any provision of State law or regulation with respect to matters within the jurisdiction of the Authority under this Act…  Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed to limit the authority of the Commission under any other provision of law.”

It is clear from this verbiage that the U. S. Anti-doping Agency or “an entity equal in qualification” would have the authority to overrule any decisions made by the Kentucky Racing Commission.  Moreover, it could determine whether Medina Spirit would be eligible to run in the Preakness, regardless of what the Maryland Racing Commission decided. 

“DUE PROCESS.—The rules…shall provide for adequate due process, including impartial hearing officers or tribunals commensurate with the seriousness of the alleged safety, performance, or anti-doping and medication control rule violation and the possible civil sanctions for such violation.

Since results of a split sample reportedly won’t be known for three or four weeks, Medina Spirit would likely be allowed to run in the Preakness; denying that would not be “adequate due process.”  (A 3-4 week time frame for obtaining the split-sample is obviously a shortcoming.)  In addition, the methodology for due process stipulated in the Act (“impartial hearing officers or tribunals”) could take years to play out.

Possible sanctions “include lifetime bans from horseracing, disgorgement of purses, monetary fines and penalties, and changes to the order of finish in covered races; and (B) with respect to anti-doping and medication control rule violators, an opportunity to reduce the applicable civil sanctions that is comparable to the opportunity provided by the Protocol for Olympic Movement Testing of the United States Anti-Doping Agency.”

Trainer Bob Baffert would be subject to the ultimate penalty–a lifetime ban. Baffert-trained horses have had five drug positives in the past year and 31 in his career.  A glaring problem for Baffert is that his trainee Gamine was disqualified from a third-place finish in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks for testing positive for Betamethasone, which he said was administered to her 18 days before the race.

The most reasoned statement I have seen on the Medina Spirit news came from NYRA handicapper Andy Serling:

“To those who have asked my thoughts on today’s news…my opinion has always been the same.  I have no tolerance for anyone that cheats and/or hurts the game we love.  I also believe firmly in due process.  I would like to think we can all agree on that”

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020 provides for both due process and extreme sanctions for cheaters.

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