NTRA unveils health and safety reforms, appoints monitor

NTRA unveils health and safety reforms, appoints monitor

Oct 16, 2008
By dvm360.com staff
New York -- The National Thoroughbred Racing Association presented a set of equine health and safety reforms Oct. 15 that it considers one of the most important steps in its 10-year history and the strongest proof yet that the racing industry is serious about regulating itself.

It created a new organization called the Safety and Integrity Alliance to implement the reforms, and appointed Tommy G. Thompson, former four-term governor of Wisconsin and Secretary of Health and Human Services, as its independent counsel.

Thompson, currently a partner in a Washington, D.C., law firm, will head a team that will regularly monitor progress on the reforms and issue an annual report. Thompson said he accepted the position only on condition that he would be fully independent.

The eight key reforms are uniform medication rules for each racing state; a ban on steroids in racing; out-of-competition testing for blood and gene doping agents and pre-race testing; uniform penalties for all medication violations; mandatory on-track and non-racing injury reporting; mandatory installation of a protective inner safety rail; mandatory pre- and post-race security; and adoption of a placement program for Thoroughbreds no longer competing.

"It might be fair to say this is as important an announcement (as any) in the 10-year history of the NTRA," Robert Elliston, NTRA executive chairman, said at a press conference.

The group's board of directors approved the reforms in September, and so far at least 54 racing jurisdictions have signed on, with more expected to do so.

The NTRA, Jockey Club and other racing groups began intensive work on reforms immediately after the nationally televised breakdown of the filly Eight Belles in this year's Kentucky Derby.

A Congressional panel in June questioned whether the industry could regulate itself. The purpose of the Safety and Integrity Alliance is to meet that challenge, while acting within the legal framework of each state, the NTRA says.