The most divisive issue in American horse racing is drug policy.  While virtually everyone involved agrees, at least publicly, that the sport needs to improve its methods of testing and sanctioning for illicit medication use, there is widespread disagreement on how to achieve these objectives.  Most notably, some people want federal government involvement and others don’t.

Earlier this year, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas gave a speech in which he devoted part of it to medication.  His overall perspective was bettor-centric, which is precisely where it should be in that bettors are the lifeblood of the sport and business of horse racing.  In his conception, racehorse trainers and owners are taking on a number of investors when they run a horse, even though most of the investments will last fifteen minutes or less until the race is over.  A trainer’s job is to protect his or her investors “at all costs” or to “give them the best chance” to have a positive payoff.

Lukas is exactly right, in my opinion, that the trainer has a fiduciary responsibility to bettors who wager on his or her horse in a race.  Further, he said that medication comes “front and center” when bettors are correctly looked upon as investors.  The bettors/investors deserve a race that is not decided by performance-enhancing drugs.

The solution, in Lukas’ view, is straightforward.  Each racetrack should support a rigorous drug testing lab (to Olympic standards) with a percentage of pari-mutuel revenue.  Once performance-enhancing drugs are classified and a violation occurs, the horse owner in question is ruled off for a period of time.

Lukas stated that this penalty will cause owners to do more due diligence in hiring trainers.  Moreover, they will put pressure on trainers to never embarrass them.

The idea of trainers’ fiduciary responsibility to bettors is strategically sound.  Once adopted, the answers to racing’s drug problems crystallize.

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