Martin to regulators: Invite USADA to bid on state testing contracts

By: Jennie Rees

Posted: April 21, 2017

Ed Martin, President of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, closed out the racing regulators’ equine welfare and integrity conference April 20 by urging his member organizations to extend an invitation to the United States Anti-Doping Agency to bid on their equine drug-testing contracts.

USADA is the national anti-doping organization in the United States for Olympic, Paralympic and Pan-American sport. Some prominent people in horse racing believe USADA has a contribution to make in regards to drug testing.

Federal legislation introduced in 2015 would put the organization in charge of equine medication, testing and enforcement for Thoroughbred racing in the U.S. There is no industry consensus on the bill, which still hasn’t been the subject of a committee hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Martin addressed an issue that has been floating around for a while: Federal legislation isn’t necessary for USADA to be hired by racing regulatory agencies should they decide to go that route.

“If USADA wants to get involved in racing, there’s nothing stopping them,” Martin told ARCI members. “They could do that today, by responding to a procurement from a racing commission to do their drug testing. I don’t believe USADA has bid on any drug-testing contract from any commission. I do know, when I read about them doing boxing or mixed martial arts, that they apparently have done work for other state agencies that regulate professional sports.

“So, it might be good if every commission, the next time you do a procurement for lab services, include USADA on the bid list. Let them make a proposal. Then it would be really interesting—if you had a commission that had USADA be their lab, to see the difference with the labs we now have.

If you look at the USADA testing results—the percentages that are clear and the percentages that have an adverse analytical finding—it’s comparable to all the world anti-doping labs and it’s comparable to the labs doing the testing in professional horse racing.

“Nobody is against talented people who maybe can help us do better. Rather than have a 20-year debate over how to restructure the world of racing regulation, if somebody thinks USADA ought to be involved in horse racing, then let’s give them that opportunity. Let’s give them the opportunity to compete for a state’s drug-testing contract, and let’s see how they do. If they do better, I’m sure everybody in the room is going to want them.”

Martin noted the challenges faced by regulators and the progress that has been achieved in medication uniformity.

“This association’s strength is based on the efforts of everybody in this room and your colleagues who are not,” he said. “Collectively we take a tremendous amount of heat, and usually take heat from people who have absolutely no idea of some of the challenges and obstacles that stand in your way running a government agency to try to police a sport with tremendous moving parts.

“We’ve made a lot of important progress—individually and collectively. There’s more work to be done–just as there will always be more work to be done.”

(Jennie Rees submitted this story and photo of Ed Martin on behalf of the Association of Racing Commissioners International)