Richard Dutrow Suspension: A case that's long overdue for resolution

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Richard Dutrow is facing a 10-year suspension for multiple rules violations over the course of his career. What does this case mean for the future of racing in the U.S.?

Yesterday's decision by the New York Court of Appeals to deny Richard Dutrow's request for a hearing regarding his 10-year ban by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board is likely to conclude a long and ugly chapter in horse racing history. While avenues for appeal are still available to Dutrow, the odds of finding a way to stave off the punishment of the Board are dwindling fast.

The number of years it's taken for Dutrow to receive a ban as severe as the one handed down by the NYSRWB is beyond absurd and is a perfect example of a key part of our industry that needs to change. I write the words "our industry", even though I'm just a player because I truly believe we are all in this together.

I wrote about the NY database of violations in the first post on Dutrow earlier today, but I think it bears repeating the sheer number of violations attributed to this trainer over the past 25+ years in the state of New York. The table below summarizes the 29 suspensions and fines for the trainer since July of 1988, a thoroughly un-enjoyable sight. Beginning in the year 2000, Dutrow has received a fine or suspension from the NYSRWB (the "Notice Date") in every year except 2008 and 2009. Not all the violations are due to medication violations from the barn, and not all are, on their own, severe offenses. But when you add them all up, the pattern is clear and it's ugly.

And that's just New York. As pointed out by Edward J. Martin, the President of Racing Commissioners International in a letter to the NYSRWB in Feb of 2011:

"Since 1979, racing regulatory jurisdictions have sanctioned Mr. Dutrow at least 64 times for various rule violations in nine different states at fifteen different racetracks. Mr. Dutrow has been cited in New York, New Jersey, Kentucky, Florida, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, California, and Minnesota."

If our industry can't deal with a trainer with as many violations and sanctions as Richard Dutrow, regardless of the minor status of some of those violations, then the situation is truly hopeless.

However, one problem with the Dutrow situation is that he is far from the only repeat violator in our sport and we all know it. Whether we talking about an obscure quarter horse trainer from New Mexico making an exodus to Oklahoma following demorphin violations, or a cobra venom-induced suspension in Kentucky of a well-known thoroughbred conditioner -- the problem does not begin nor end with Richard E. Dutrow, Jr.

I think it's clear to most of us that there are a few things that should be done to prevent on-going, Dutrow-type problems in the future:

First, every state should have and open, searchable database like New York so anyone -- owners, fans, players, media -- can find out exactly what violations have occurred in the past. Nothing should be hidden and everything should be out in the open.

"Don't do the crime if you can't do the time."

The details provided in these state databases should make it absolutely clear what violations occurred, the severity of the violation (overage vs. banned substance) and the punishment handed down.

Second, standards need to be set in order to deal with repeat violators over specified periods of time. A situation like the one with Richard Dutrow should never even get to the point where were talking about twenty, thirty or forty violations.

Third, complete reciprocity between racing jurisdictions; it does little good to punish a trainer in New York if he can just move the whole show somewhere else.

Fourth, there needs to be some kind of punishment at the owner level, not just with the trainer.

An owner that repeatedly sends his or her horses to a trainer with multiple violations (some of which are quite severe) should be held accountable if one of their horses comes back with a positive drug sample. The "I can't watch everything my trainer does" excuse isn't good enough. We can do better. If trainers are absolutely liable when their horses come back with positive test results, then owners should be liable for sending their horses to trainers that get caught. Otherwise, where's the incentive other than to win at any cost?

None of these things are earth-shattering -- we've been talking about them for years now. And some of these changes are afoot through the medication reforms pushed by the Association of Racing Commissioners International Model Rules Committee. But as the old saying goes, "talk is cheap." If five, ten or twenty years from new we are once again dealing with a trainer that's racked up 50+ violations across the country then it's all for naught.

Notice Number Type Notice Date Reason
NY 23-1988 Suspension (90 days) 7/21/1988 Possession of a controlled substance
NY 23-1988 Suspension (90 days) 7/21/1988 Possession of marijuana at Aqueduct
NY 45-1988 Indefinite Suspension 12/23/1988 Positive drug test: marijuana
MO 62-1995 Fine ($250) 11/7/1995 False statement on application
NY 61-2000 Fine ($500) 11/15/2000 Injectable vitamin found in barn
NY 28-2001 Fine ($250) 5/12/2001 Lasix overage
NY 14-2002 Fine ($500) 2/15/2002 Fail to conduct business in a proper manner
NY 34-2002 Fine ($200) 7/3/2002 Fail to follow proper Lasix procedures
NY 22-2003 Fine ($500) 4/25/2003 Being the aggressor in an altercation
NY 38-2003 Fine ($200) 8/1/2003 Fail to have foal papers on file cause a late scratch.
NY 9-2004 Fine ($250) 1/13/2004 Lasix overage
NY 46-2004 Fine ($2,500) 11/3/2004 Fail to tend to business in a proper manner necessitating a late scratch.
NY 60-2004 Other 3/7/2005 Settlement suspension of 120 days, 60 days stayed providing no significant violations of Board rules.
NY 26-2004 Other 3/7/2005 Settlement suspension of 120 days, 60 days stayed providing no significant violations of Board rules.
NY 29-2003 Fine ($5,000) & Suspension (60 days) 3/7/2005 Post race positive - Mepivacaine
ST 36-2006 Fine ($500) 8/14/2006 Fail to have foal papers on file cause a late scratch.
AQ 2-2007 Fine ($1,000) & Suspension (7 days) 1/11/2007 Finding drug Phenylbutazone in post race sample of Privy Seal.
AQ 5-2007 Suspension (14 days) 2/6/2007 Violation of Rule 4002.1 (b)
MO 12-2007 Fine ($25,000) 2/6/2007 Violation of Rule 4002.1 (b)
AQ 17-2007 Fine ($500) 4/12/2007 Fail to tend to business in a proper manner necessitating a late scratch.
FL 15-2007 Fine ($100) 6/9/2007 Fail to tend to business in a proper manner necessitating a late scratch.
FL 16-2007 Fine ($100) 6/9/2007 Failing to appear or contact the Stewards after having been duly informed.
BL 32-2007 Other ($1,000)* 7/18/2007 Fail to tend to business in a proper manner necessitating a late scratch.
ST 68-2010 Fine ($250) 8/18/2010 Failure to follow proper Lasix administration
AQ 25-2011 Suspension (30 days) 2/16/2011 Possessed equipment for hypodermic injection
AQ 26-2011 Suspension (60 days) 2/16/2011 Finding drug Butorphanol in post race sample of Fastus Cactus
MO 44-2011 Finding & Order 3/2/2011
AQ 44-2011 Fine 12/9/2011
AQ 86-2011 Fine ($500) 12/9/2011 Fail to tend to business in a proper manner necessitating a late scratch.

*This fine was eventually rescinded.

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