Day At The Track

USTA response to horsemen’s letter

11:50 AM 31 Mar 2020 NZDT
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United States Trotting Association
United States Trotting Association

Following is a letter sent to U.S. Trotting Association President Russell Williams and his response to five prominent harness horsemen — George Segal, Marvin Katz, Steve Stewart, Myron Bell and Richard Alan Arnold — who called for action from the industry because it “owes a debt and profound obligation to two essential and dependent constituencies without whom our sport cannot exist: the Wagering Public and our beloved Standardbred Race horses.”

Letter to Russell Williams from Segal, Katz, Stewart, Bell and Arnold

March 19, 2020

Mr. Russell Williams
President
United States Trotting Association
6130 S. Sunbury Road
Westerville, OH 43081-9309

Dear Mr. Williams:

As Owners, Breeders and caretakers of Standardbred race horses, we owe a debt and profound obligation to two essential and dependent constituencies without whom our sport cannot exist: the Wagering Public and our beloved Standardbred Race horses. Both are totally dependent on the integrity and good faith adherence to the tenants of our sport by the vast majority of our sport’s participants who understand the need for honesty and humanity. In addition, both require exclusion of cheaters who violate them.

Harness Racing has a devoted following to whom we all owe a duty of transparency and integrity. The work of a cheater doping horses in the shadows of the shed row is neither transparent nor honest. And worse, it is an unconscionable abuse of our noble charges. This chemical subterfuge, though apparently practiced by a distinct few undermines our sport and
requires those honest participants who are in the vast majority standing up and saying enough.

Although, the wagering public and our racehorses are both essential to our sport, there is one very important difference. The public can vote with their pocketbooks by moving away from the sport if they are displeased. But our beloved race horses cannot choose to leave if they are abused. For those of us who breed, raise, train, race and care for these magnificent animals, know that horses love to interact and develop relationships with humans who treat them well; and these noble beasts excel at performing in the manner they were bred to do. Those loveable characteristics of the racehorse makes it criminal to abuse these wonderful creatures or stand silent when others are doing so.

The recent indictments of 29 members of the Horse Racing Industry by the Department of Justice was both shocking and depressingly disappointing. Common sense tells us these 29 individuals who were indicted are unlikely to be the only participants in our sport who may be responsibly charged with violating laws protecting our wonderful racehorses and the Betting Public.

A crisis is upon us and make no mistake, the general public is watching. Two very different newspapers, the Washington Post and the (Louisville) Courier Journal, each published sobering editorials regarding Horse Racing and the doping indictments:

“Horse Racing Has Outlived Its Time”
Washington Post, March 13, 2020

“Horse Racing Doping Scheme Leaves No Option”
Courier – Journal, March 10, 2020

In response to these clarion calls the time for action is now. It is time to stand up for our great sport and to protect our race horses from potential harm by the unscrupulous who would destroy and abuse both for potential gain.

In this time of crisis the undersigned call for the following concrete steps to be taken immediately:

1. For the U.S.T.A. to actively and publicly condemn the type of activity alleged in the DOJ indictments and proactively work with other industry groups to propose and obtain comprehensive regulation to prevent the mistreatment of our horses through doping and other unethical activity.

2. For the U.S.T.A. to reinstate its Tip Hotline for persons of integrity to report suspected cheating – SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING.

3. For U.S.T.A. to form an industry committee to investigate the extent of the doping problem in our sport, including, if necessary, hiring private investigators and provide its findings to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.

4. For all of us to commit to the betting public, our race horses and each other to speak up – disassociate ourselves from cheaters and to shun those who we know are dirty trainers and vets or owners who associate with them.

In many ways 2019 was one of the greatest years in our sport’s history. But recent developments make it clear either the vast majority of us who love this sport and these magnificent creatures we call race horses, stand up for what is right or, the pride we now feel for being involved in this noble and enjoyable venture may turn to the shame we will bear for being associated with an enterprise that expired through our neglect.

Yours very truly,

George Segal       Marvin Katz       Steve Stewart       Myron Bell       Richard Alan Arnold
cc: U.S.T.A. Board of Directors

Williams’ response to Segal, Katz, Stewart, Bell and Arnold

 

March 30, 2020

Dear George, Marvin, Steve, Myron, and Richard:

Your timely and eloquent letter is most welcome.

I respectfully refer you to an item that was recently posted on the USTA website (http://ustrottingnews.com/the-way-forward-some-initial-steps/). In it, I offer some recommendations and invite all harness racing stakeholders to join the effort to preserve all that is best about our sport. Your letter, representing the views of some of our industry’s leaders, is the first contribution to that effort, and sets the perfect tone for the industry conversation that we must have.

Most of your concerns are answered in detail in the website post.

The Tip Hotline is being restarted as you recommend.

As my website post makes clear, a major investment in investigative capability and sweeping changes to the regulatory process will be needed. Given the magnitude of this, I’m glad to report that we already have a committee in place to handle these matters. It is the Executive Committee of the USTA Board of Directors, and it represents all harness racing interests. In my quarter-century on the USTA board, we have never had such a skilled, cooperative, and active board and executive committee as we have today.

I cannot thank you enough for your letter. Please expect to be called upon to assist with and contribute to our work.

Very sincerely,

Russell Williams
President, U.S. Trotting Association

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