Harness Racing belongs to all ages but it is the younger element we need most!
Reviewing the day's racing with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon is one of my favourite pastimes and if I have won a few shillings on the day so much the better! Conversely, those that follow The Racing Horse know how much I abhor those who administer banned substances/drugs to horses and I would rid them from sport in a millisecond. Anyway, back to my glass of wine and reviewing the horsey stuff and a few nights ago, I received two messages on the above subject matter within five minutes.
The first was an editor from a racing magazine who told me that my latest piece was a rambling jumbled mess and that it needed rewriting - he was right of course. Most of my stuff is of that quality. It was just one of those times when penning personal thoughts and the piece just grew. Yes, it was jumbled and did need an edit, but it was also an honest appraisal and I allowed it to stand.
Something similar happened when I received a message from Helen and she correctly reminded me there was a rule book in place to tackle transgressors. I was going to write a line about 'teeth' and 'fit for purpose' but once again the piece grew, on this occasion I did not think the response was a jumbled mess. Reading it again in the cold light of day it was clear the opinion represented a widely held view and the only one we know that can save harness racing, here was the response:
"I was hoping to copy and paste a document to highlight my point but I have been refused permission. Suffice it to say that I am not alone in thinking the rule book needs to be given teeth. Every day I receive stories of transgressions but most have asked for confidentiality. It seems there is so much nervousness around this subject and those within the sport are reluctant to flag their opinions. From 21 personal messages, only one (so far) has disagreed with the main thrust of my piece. There is another who has promised me details that will “prove me wrong (whatever that means)” and once received I will post it if given permission. Helen, my main point is when we find owners/trainers/drivers using banned substances let's kick them out of harness racing, what is wrong with that? Why would you want to accommodate them?
The Rule Book needs to/should reflect what the vast majority of us want and what is right. I know we have other issues to address but why-why-why cannot the BHRC and the IHRA formally agree a new joint-communiqué to commence from 1st January 2018, dictating that any transgressors found using a certain listed/category of drug will receive a life ban from any racecourse under their jurisdiction?
Every trainer should sign a contract to “Harness Racing In the UK & Ireland” promising to not to use these banned substances, those that refuse should be set-aside from racing until they do so, and recorded on a page-list of the BHRC and the IHRA. Transgressors will be listed documenting which drugs they used on their horses. They will have no right of appeal if proven guilty. There should be an absolute equalisation of standards in the UK and in Ireland which includes integrity testing and measuring. The system should be made automatic and obligatory removing any human intervention/consideration!
I appreciate there are grey areas where drugs are needed to address pain and the one area of confusion. Any drugs used that are not listed or categorised in the banned list should be heard on its merits and the outcome immediately updated into/onto the original list with a full declaration, so other trainers know where they stand at all times. This should be done with 48 hours. There should be a zero tolerance on ignorance and no regard to mitigating circumstances.
We must squeeze the cheats out and shame them - to do nothing is no longer an option. Early on we must guard against/be aware of cartels and allegiances so total transparency is needed from the outset to disarm them. Each individual must be treated the same - money, names and reputations should count for nothing. There will be a backlash of sorts but we must tackle that head-on using the new “Non-Ambiguous Rule Book.” It would be prudent that the BHRC and the IHRA back each other at all times leaving no room for dissent.
Helen, this does sound like a wish-list but basically a call to remove those that would administer banned substances to their horses and deprive us of our sport. It really is something we should all agree on and nervous dithering only serves to perpetuate our problem within harness racing."
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