If standardbred racing ever wanted to host their own version of wrestling, the main event would have to be Jeff Gural versus Joe Faraldo. Whether it were to be a physical or an oratory battle in the square ring, it would promise to be an entertaining battle. But unfortunately, it would be poorly attended, especially if the battle had to do with the issue of illegal medication. Because whether Faraldo's comments regarding the issue of drugging racehorses is being overblown, correct or not, the racing public has already made up its mind that the game is juiced. Just check any mesage board and read the comments. Whether or not the is the fact, it is the perception and that is one of the things that keep the public from the sport.
In the latest chapter of the Faraldo/Gural battles, a press release from the SOA of NY had the headline of Gural's Outrageous Drugs Comment Slammed! Let me state up front, that on the particular question raised in this press release regarding the tossing of the NYSRWB's out of testing rules by a court, I agree with the SOA's position. While I agree with out of competition testing, the requirement that a horse must be delivered to a racetrack for testing even if stabled out of state is absurd. If anything, the state should send field reps to where a horse is stabled. Why penalize a trainer of a horse that there is no known proof that it has been treated with steroids?
However, using language like the following is not called for and in my opinion juvenille.
Quite frankly, we are grateful that you asked about the case, because clearly the upstate track owner who apparently raised the issue of drug testing in horse racing at your September 6th hearing unfairly characterized both the overall issue and, more specifically, the lawsuit brought against the Racing & Wagering Board. - We know who you are talking about; couldn't you just say Jeff Gural?
In light of these facts, you can see why we believe it is outrageous that the owner of Tioga Downs would seek to create the impression that the SOA of New York and other harness horsemen... - Couldn't they have said "that Jeff Gural, the owner of Tioga Downs, would seek"?
Are we in third grade? It reminds me a little of the old "I am not talking to you" game. "Joe, will you tell Jeff that I am not speaking to him"?
In the spirit of setting a proper tone, let me offer my perspective on the issue with a letter to Joe Faraldo and Jeff Gural.
Joe and Jeff,
In regards to your latest tiff, let me offer my perspective on the issue.
Joe, I agree the testing statistics don't show an excessive number of drugging incidents. I will further agree a lot of the violations come from mistakes made by vets. However, to assume Jeff is trying to make a bigger issue of drugging for his own use is not responsible. Let me remind you in addition to owning Tioga and Vernon Downs (funny you should only mention Tioga Downs where the horsemen seem to have a good relationship with Mr. Gural and you omit mentioning Vernon Downs where historically the relationship has been far more acrimonious) and soon will control the Meadowlands (a non-racino property). The perception of illegal drug use can not help racing handle at any of the three tracks. It also can't help Jeff's breeding farm business either if people think a sire's record may be phony due to drug use. MayI also remind you that Jeff races horses as well?
Also, may I remind you while Jeff speaks for the upstate tracks he controls, he is only a partial owner of the tracks and as he has stated at a meeting that both one of your directors and I attended a couple of years ago that his partners could care less about horse racing, but they are letting him try to make a go of it. Does this sound like a person looking to get rid of horse racing?
I am sure as Mr. Martin and you both say, the number of drugging incidents are small. However, you must realize when we read in the USTA's fines and suspension list about trainers being caught with syringes in their possession it doesn't look very good. Also, may I remind you the testing currently being performed is with regards to known medications. In the case of Out of Competition testing, people are looking primarly for steroids; steroids which may be given long before a horse steps foot on a racetrack and is detectable. Jeff, while I often agree with you, you should agree the proposed rule having horsemen pay the expense to ship their horse to a racetrack currently racing to get tested is absurd and a burden on horsemen, but that doesn't mean the problem exists or doesn't exist.
In some ways, testing keeps honest people honest; the fear of of getting caught a deterrent. Those who really want to cheat, will do so despite the risk. Those intent on cheating will find themselves seeking and obtaining the latest designer drugs that current drug detection tests can't detect. Unfortunately, the industry on a national level is not about to or are unable to dedicate the money needed to keep up with the latest drugs being created. So Joe, trying to say based on testing results for known drugs, there is no problem with the use of drugs trainers may be using for which there is no testing is a leap of faith. You may be right, but may be wrong.
Also, I don't know if either of you check out some of the racing boards I referred to earlier, but almost on every board there is talk about 'juicers'. I am sure some of the allegations are false, but some of them may be true. But just think about it; if people who are heavily invested in the game enough as owners or gamblers that they participate in these boards think racing is full of trainers who drug horses, can you imagine what others are thinking?
I think Jeff's desire of out of competition testing comes from wanting to make sure racing is played on as level a playing field of possible and is not being done to just "screw the horsemen". Joe, I am sure your intent is the same, but you want to protect your membership's rights and keep them from making them incur a large expense needlessly. Clearly the two of you have differences, but I believe the two of you also have areas of agreement as well; perhaps more than you realize.
While I think we may see peace in the Middle-East sooner, may I suggest the two of you hold a summit at a neutral site mediated by Mike Turner of the USTA to discuss your differences and areas of agreement? Maybe play a round of golf or bowl a few games. While I truly doubt you will come out of the meeting as BFFs, perhaps the two of you will have more respect for each other and when you disagree, keep it professional so we don't see titles of future press releases like Gural's Outrageous Drugs Comment Slammed! and we don't use expressions like "the upstate track owner"; these type of things really don't help the discourse.
Who knows, something may actually get done?