Major Tracks Back NTRA Safety, Integrity Reforms

By John Scheinman
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, October 16, 2008

Spurred to act by the overwhelming negative public reaction to the death of filly Eight Belles at the end of the Kentucky Derby in May, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association yesterday unveiled a comprehensive series of safety and integrity reforms in New York.

Unlike many past industry initiatives that lacked unified support or a compelling impetus for action, the new reforms have the backing of every major racetrack in the country. Some of the plans, such as care for horses after their racing careers are over, are still only loosely defined, but the announcement carried the weight of authority with the inclusion of Tommy G. Thompson, the former four-term governor of Wisconsin and former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, who will serve as an independent counsel charged with reviewing implementation by the new NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance.

"Our first priority is to insure the health and safety of the athletes and horses in the racing industry," Thompson said. "I will take my independent oversight role seriously and work to assure transparency in this process."

Reforms such as uniform medication rules and banning of steroids already were being enacted piecemeal in racing jurisdictions across the country. They now, however, will be part of a larger program implemented in three phases through 2011. The other points of focus for the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance are:

· out-of-competition testing for blood doping agents and pre-race testing.

· uniform penalties for medical infractions.

· mandatory on-track and non-racing injury reporting.

· the installation of safety rails.

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