NEW YORK, Aug 24 (Reuters) – A state court judge has thrown out a set of rules allowing horse-racing regulators to conduct random drug tests of horses that are stabled on private property in New York.
The Standardbred Owners Association of New York (SOA) brought the suit against the New York State Racing and Wagering Board (RWB) in 2009, arguing that the new rules were overly broad, arbitrary and unfair. Schenectady County Acting Supreme Court Justice Mark Powers agreed, ruling on Aug. 15 that the rules were ‘irresponsible’ and ‘so lacking in reason as to require nullification in their entirety.’
The so-called Out-of-Competition Testing Rules, or OCTRs, were adopted in late 2009 to address the rising number of cases in which racehorses were given performance-enhancing drugs. The rules would have allowed regulators to enter any private stable within 100 miles of a racetrack up to 180 days before a race, but a judge temporarily halted them in January 2010. So far no OCTRs have been administered.
In his ruling, Powers characterized the RWB’s current regulatory scheme as ineffective, and officials as unwilling to shift to more reliable — and more expensive — testing methods. The 100-mile and 180-day thresholds were completely arbitrary, he wrote, and not based on science. Further, horse owners could easily sidestep the thresholds by using a stable just outside the 100-mile jurisdiction, Powers wrote.
‘LOOKING FOR ONE BAD APPLE’
Powers found overly intrusive the rule allowing regulators to show up unannounced on private property, and said the prescribed penalties, including long-term suspension or revocation of state licenses, were disproportionately harsh.
‘There is an inherent unfairness to adopting rules that sweep across an entire industry, looking for one bad apple and subject to all kinds of abuses in implementation and enforcement,’ Powers wrote.
SOA President Joseph Faraldo said in a statement that the industry is completely supportive of anti-doping regulations that are more narrowly tailored.
RWB spokesman Lee Park said a new set of rules for drug testing was set forth in November of last year, and is currently going through the rulemaking process. Park would not specify what changes were made or when the new rules could be adopted, but he did say most of the concerns raised in the SOA lawsuit have been addressed.
The case is Ford et al v. the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, Schenectady County Supreme Court Case No. 2011-2086. Andrew Turro of Meyer Suozzi English & Klein, P.C. represented the Standardbred Owners Association and other plaintiffs. Robert Feuerstein and Rick Goodell represented the Racing and Wagering Board, and Christopher Hall was of counsel to the attorney general’s office.