WITH the image of Jamaica’s horse racing industry not always the most spick and span, the State has extended its commitment to help combat cheating in all forms in the sport, with a concentrated focus on doping.
The illegal use of banned substances in local horse racing is believed to be widespread, though few cases of cheats being caught and punished have made the headlines. Nevertheless, the rate of doping in the “sport of kings” is thought to be alarming enough to trigger a response from Government in providing finances to bolster anti-doping efforts and ultimately protect the integrity of the sport which is an economic driver.
According to Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, in order for the horse racing sector to thrive the sport’s integrity must be safeguarded.
“We have to ensure that the integrity of horse racing is at the highest possible level to become the success it is in Jamaica and to be an even greater source of economic activity,” Dr Clarke told the Jamaica Observer, “and that mechanisms are in place to identify cheating wherever it occurs, and to ensure that appropriate and dissuasive sanctions are applied quickly,” he added.
Approximately 13 positive tests for illicit drugs were discovered in ‘A’ samples taken from horses in April 2022. It is believed that at least three of the approximately 13 positives had been desiginated as Class One drugs. The current list of prohibited substances in horse racing is divided into five categories, with Class One drugs considered the most dangerous and carrying the harshest punishments, including high fines. It was also said that the ‘B’ samples for the April discoveries had not yet been analysed.
Dr Clarke stated that the Jamaican Government is completely committed to assisting the racing sector in combating the use of illegal substances in the sport.
“The Government will, through the Jamaica Racing Commission, provide the resources to significantly upgrade the anti-cheating mechanisms through regular drug testing.
“We will ensure that drug testing is frequent, consistent, and thorough. And by improving the assurance of integrity in horse racing, more people will be inclined to invest in the industry and, as a result, there will be even greater economic activity and employment in Jamaica,” Clarke affirmed.
Dr Clarke continued: “We are going to make sure that we test after every race. We will make the resources available to stamp out cheating in the horse racing industry and to make sure we have confidence in the results.”
No figure was immediately available on government’s financial commitment but it is expected that the funds will soon become available to kick-start the new offensive.
Clovis Metcalfe, chairman of both the Betting, Gaming & Lotteries Commission (BGLC) and the Jamaica Racing Commission (JRC), commended the Government’s much-needed support in protecting the racing industry’s integrity.
“The assistance is much needed because the JRC is government-funded and there are times when we don’t have enough money to get the results of drug testing from the university lab. In other words, if we do not pay, the results are not released and so they are sometimes delayed if payments are not received. So, this financial aid will ensure that the testing is finished and the results are supplied on time, and the racing commission welcomes the assistance coming through the minister of finance,” Metcalfe told the Observer.
While it is hard to eliminate cheating in sports, Metcalfe believes that boosting punishment could be a deterrent.
“We can reduce it [cheating in sports] through the penalties we impose on the offending party. If we are consistent in imposing fines and there are repeat violators, we just increase the penalty.
“With the new racing rules we do what is necessary to discourage the use of prohibited substances. It [stiff penalties] is a message to them that the commission will take whatever steps that are necessary,” Metcalfe noted.