These days with there being more attention to the issue of prohibited substances in race horse, the question needs to be asked what makes a trainer a 'bad' trainer with respect to medication violations? This is an important question as track operators have been known to exclude trainers they feel are questionable (not just the Meadowlands); racing commissions issue drug penalties based on past offenses; some people (of which I was one) and even the NYSRWB wants to hold owners responsible for choosing 'bad' trainers to trainer their horses. This doesn't even consider the gambler whose wagering is the ultimate vote on integrity.
I mentioned I was one of those people who want to hold owners responsible for using 'bad' trainers; my position has 'evolved'. While I am sure there are people selecting trainers with the attitude 'I don't want to know', I am not sure we can penalize them. As Joe Faraldo stated recently, if the trainer is licensed you shouldn't penalize the owner (though I would like to think track operators will take care of the worst offending trainers via exclusion).
What brought about my change in opinion? What makes it difficult to define a 'bad' trainer? There is a lack of any set standard. One person's cheat may be some one's okay trainer, or one that has reformed their ways. Let me explain.
On the Internet, recently someone called a certain trainer a cheat. I assume this person actually read the fines and suspensions record for this individual in detail before making this accusation (To keep all the parties as anonymous as possible, I will not identify them and will be somewhat vague as to the record of the trainer in question). Not personally considering this trainer a cheat, I was curious and looked back at the person's record. Prior to this trainer's most recent violation which I consider minor, their last violation for prohibited substances was back in the early part of this century. Back then, there was a couple of violations, for something definitely more than a technical violation. Before then, there was a single violation a few years earlier. This in a career which spans more than two decades.
Back when the prior violations took place, I would have considered the trainer 'problematic'. Now, more than a decade later, I consider this trainer someone who has redeemed themselves, their prior violations merely a reminder of their past. Others, such as the person on the Internet obviously has a problem with this trainer, not willing to consider the time which has passed between violations. Ask yourself, does four violations for medication violations over a span of more than twenty years make a trainer 'bad'? What if it was four violations over ten years; five years? Who is right in their classification of the trainer?
It is a matter of personal opinion. This needs to stop. The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium should develop what should be known as a trainer integrity rating, a number based on the number and severity of medication violations over a period of time. While this value will not impact individual penalties, it can be used as a guideline to track operators, and racing commissions to make decisions on expulsion or licensing. What that formula would be I can't say, but with the development of a Trainer Integrity Rating, decisions based on gut feeling can be replaced by an industry-wide standard.