On February 16, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board suspended trainer Rick Dutrow for 90 days for various violations. These include a 30 day suspension for a positive for painkillers and 60 days for finding hypodermic needles in his barn at Aqueduct.
Dutrow has consistently trained with a patent disregard for the rules of any jurisdiction. He has been suspended numerous times for drug violations. One of the more recent, in 2009, caused the Kentucky Racing Commission to double the initial suspension. His actions include providing steroids to Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Big Brown. It should be noted that steroids were permissible at the time he gave them to Big Brown.
Association of Racing Commisioners International (RCI) President, Ed Martin has written the New York State Racing and Wagering Board stating that Dutrow’s actions in concert with his prior history necessitate a suspension for a year. His position is that Dutrow continually ignores the rules and tries to unfairly influence the game without remorse when caught.
In my opinion, Dutrow is a true blight on our sport. He has indicated publicly that he did not regret using steroids on horses. He stated publicly that he would do what is necessary to win. Winning at any cost is not good for racing. It creates a disproportionate ability to win and slants the competitive edge towards Dutrow. This is exactly what he wants, however not what the sport can handle during this period.
As I have written previously, the sport needs to police itself effectively. In order to do that stiff penalties for multiple offenders needs to be implemented. Racing fans continue to turn away and seek other forms of entertainment. The industry has to make sure that those people who come to the sport, either as fans or as owners are able to believe the integrity in the sport.
As a result, it would be nice to follow Mr Martin’s recommendation. The NYS racing and wagering board would show a message that cheating is not permitted and cheaters will be forced to choose: change your ways or change your career. The truth is, that probably won’t happen. The Board handed down their 90 days. and generally won’t increase the penalties in New York. Too bad, some people need to be benched.