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Racing Free Steps Up

Horsemen organization Racing Free moves against illegal drug use.

August 28, 2012

Generic Racing Photo

The use of performance-enhancing drugs in the horse racing industry is a growing issue that has caused devastating harm to horses, jockeys and the racing industry at large. Racing Free, a new organization founded by a team of industry advocates, is stepping up to address the use of these dangerous and often illegal drugs in horse racing in the United States.

“With all of the negativity surrounding the increased use of performance-enhancing drugs in horse racing, we established Racing Free to organize a positive movement to change what has become a real and unfortunate issue for our industry,” said Micah McKinney, co-founder of Racing Free. “Racing Free will not only bring attention to and garner support for drug-free racing, but will actually reward those in the industry who do not use performance-enhancing drugs.”

Racing Free brings together industry representatives to promote racehorse owners, trainers, jockeys, veterinarians and other industry representatives who choose not to use performance-enhancing drugs, while working to educate the general public about drug-use in horse racing. Through its efforts, Racing Free aims to minimize race day injuries and death to horses and riders, create equal racing competition, re-establish a positive reputation for the horse racing industry, and provide non-biased information for the betting public.

“Racing Free is a neat program because it demonstrates horsemen are, and have always been, concerned about the welfare of the horses, and they don’t want people who cheat participating in their sport,” said Trey Buck, AQHA executive director of racing. “AQHA is proud to endorse Racing Free and its approach to working within the established system to create a safer racing environment and to make sure the horse is treated the way it deserves to be treated.”

Starting this fall at racetracks across the country, the Racing Free incentive program will reward owners, trainers and jockeys who openly race without the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Participants will pay a voluntary per-meet fee to register in the program. At the end of the meet, all Racing Free members who won a race and pass a drug test will receive a payout through the Racing Free incentive program.

“The number of horses breaking down seems to be growing, which means each ride presents a greater risk of harm to jockeys and horses – and that doesn’t have to be the case,” said G. R. Carter, jockey and vice chairman of the Jockeys’ Guild. “We fully support Racing Free and its effort to make racing safer and reduce the number of catastrophic injuries to the horses and the riders.”

Racing Free is currently asking industry representatives and the general public to pledge support for performance-enhancing drug-free racing in addition to registering memberships for participating fall races. As the organization’s efforts continue to grow, Racing Free will expand its incentive program and will also work to bring improvements to current drug testing methods and labs, ultimately making it easier to identify and address the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

“The abuse of drugs in the racing industry seems to have become more prominent in the last five years as the purses have increased along with the pressure to win. It’s a real issue that’s had a negative effect on the industry as a whole,” said Cody Joiner, Quarter Horse trainer. “As representatives of the sport, we all need to recognize the importance of keeping the animals safe. An effort like the one being led by Racing Free is critical to bringing racing back to being about the natural ability of the horse, and I’m pleased to support the program and its mission to end the use of harmful performance-enhancing drugs.”

“We’re ready to bring this sport back to the natural ability of the horse and look forward to allowing the public to participate in the sport the way it was meant to be enjoyed,” said McKinney. “Racing Free is committed to leveling the field, and we’re excited to bring together others who share that commitment.”

Racing Free is an industry organization focused on eliminating the use of dangerous and often illegal performance-enhancing drugs in horse racing in the United States. By providing visibility for performance-enhancing drug free racing, educating the public about performance-enhancing drugs, creating monetary rewards for owners who choose to run their horses performance-enhancing drug free, and assisting in improvement of current drug testing labs, Racing Free aims to raise awareness of and support for racehorse owners and trainers who choose not to use performance-enhancing drugs. Visit www.RacingFree.com.