As per Harness Racing Weekend Preview, the USTA Executive Committee has voted to no longer fund out-of-competition testing by a vote of 16-1. The committee decided they'll support out-of-competition testing only through regulators where due process rights are preserved and there is no USTA funding.
No doubt this is a strong rebuke of Jeff Gural's out-of-competition testing as some directors have been vocal opponents of his program and the banishment of trainers using his exclusionary rights. Odds are this will not change Gural's program; it will just require Gural to pick up the balance formerly paid for by the USTA and make him wonder why he ever stepped in to rescue the Meadowlands in the first place.
The USTA certainly has the right not to fund any out-of-competition testing, but being this program was part of the USTA's approved budget for this year, they should have honored any requests for payment this year. What would have been more appropriate is to have voted to end the program after this fiscal year. Alas, what is done is done.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if out-of-competition testing by regulators would be the end all and there would be no need for a track operator's own program and the use of the exclusionary rule? Yes, it would. How well have commission programs worked up to now? Not very well. With the ability to appeal and obtain injunctions from the courts, wrongdoers can continue to train at your local raceway; in the most extreme cases for years or until the racing commission decides to cut a deal.
The out-of-competition program Jeff Gural has implemented has some people claiming foul. They claim who gets tested and excluded is arbitrary; those in favor get to race while those out of favor get excluded. It is true the exclusionary rule has the potential to be abused but when you look at who is out at the Meadowlands, it seems excluding some trainers with large barns goes against the Meadowlands' own self interest especially when you consider how hard it is to draw a race program there.
What the answer is I don't know. The problem is the way the regulatory system is set up, it favors the trainer over the gambler while Gural's process seems to favor the punter over the trainer. There needs to be a way to marry the two processes so the horseplayers' and trainers' interests are equally protected. Perhaps the USTA and racing commissions can come up with a process which treats both the trainers' and gamblers' interests equally.
That would be something worth working towards.