TTRA chairman: Bharath’s letter illegal
A DIRECTIVE from Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment Vasant Bharath to Trinidad and Tobago Racing Authority (TTRA) chairman Sunil Sirjoo, instructing him to discontinue any further action in the matter of 2011 Gold Cup winner Boogie Blues, has left stakeholders with more questions than answers.
The letter, dated August 20, led the TTRA to call a meeting on Thursday—chaired by Sirjoo—with representatives from Arima Race Club (ARC), Betting Levy Board (BLB), Racehorse Owners Association (ROA), Racehorse Trainers Association (RTA) and Stud Farm Association (SFA).
Attending the meeting were Hugh Lee King (ARC), BLB chairman Kama Maharaj, ROA president Baskaran Bassawh, RTA head Harold Chadee and SFA chairman Neil Poon Tip.
Asked what the meeting was about, Sirjoo told the Express: “I can only say what we decided to do is to pen a response, but not before we meet with our lawyers, and we will be meeting on Wednesday with them.”
The letter from Bharath is asking the Authority to do something “illegal”, Sirjoo stated.
“What it really does, it puts us in a very embarrassing situation if we continue with his instruction. For example, if your horse comes back positive you could claim prejudice, asking how Mr (Derek) Chin (Boogie Blues’ owner) could get that favour, and not you. It is asking the TTRA to do something that is contrary to the Rules of Racing and is illegal.”
Harold Chadee, president of the RTA, said Chin’s exoneration could lead to other trainers’ cases being re-opened, and possibly issues of compensation.
“Some good will come out of this. If Chin is exonerated, Minister Bharath should pardon all trainers who were suspended under his watch. I am also calling on the TTRA to release all the names of all the horses and trainers, whose horses tested suspicious, and were not further tested under former chairman Joe Hadeed’s and Chin’s watch.
“Trainers signed a comprehensive petition asking the TTRA to suspend their hearing until the Boogie Blues matter was concluded,” he noted, “and chairman Sirjoo dismissed it, informing them that it had no bearing on the Boogie Blues matter. We now want to place that on record.”
MINISTER OF TRADE, INDUSTRY AND INVESTMENT
August 20, 2013
Mr. Sunil Sirjoo
Trinidad and Tobago Racing Authority
Santa Rosa Park
Churchill Roosevelt Highway
RE: DIRECTIONS PURSUANT TO SECTION 10(2) OF THE TRINIDAD AND
TOBAGO RACING AUTHORITY ACT CHAPTER 21:50
In my capacity as Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment and pursuant to the powers vested in me under section 10(2) of the Trinidad and Tobago Racing Authority Act Chap. 21:50, which provides that in the exercise of its functions the Trinidad and Tobago Racing Authority (hereinafter called “the Authority”) shall comply with any special or general directions which may be given to it by me, I hereby direct that the Authority shall discontinue the enquiry into the report of a finding of a prohibited substance Indomethecin in the sample of urine No. 524562 taken on 26th December 2011 from the horse Boogie Blues, and whether the Trinidad and Tobago Racing Authority Rules, 2000 (hereinafter referred to as “the Rules of Racing”) were contravened in relation to that matter. In coming to this decision, I have found that the Authority may have breached the Rules of Racing for the reasons set out below.
I have considered the facts of this case and I find that they give rise to issues which have caused me great concern and, in my opinion, are likely to have an adverse effect on the racing industry in Trinidad and Tobago in the event that the Authority is permitted to pursue its intention to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy with respect to the finding of all prohibited substances in the blood or urine samples of race horses after testing by the Authority. The alleged positive finding in this case has been made with respect to a therapeutic drug, namely Indomethecin, in the amount of 9 nanograms which is so minute as to be well below any internationally recognised threshold levels for this drug.
I have also reviewed and considered the Rules of Racing and in particular Rules 64 and 100 and I have found that the construction and interpretation of these rules by the Authority as a basis for enforcement is not supported (indeed it appears to be contradicted) by modern scientific opinion. Against that background I have serious concerns that the Authority’s construction and interpretation of these said rules may be inconsistent with the wording of the Rules of Racing, and as such will frustrate the intention, policy and objectives of the Rules of Racing and be inconsistent with the policy of this Ministry.
In the Rules of Racing a “positive” finding is defined as “a prohibited substance the concentration of which is above the threshold level or matter established from time to time by the authority.” Rule 100(C) (1) (b) provides that prohibited substances include “therapeutic medications in excess of the acceptable levels.” It is clear that the Rules of Racing expressly provide for threshold levels for the testing of race horses. In my investigations in this matter, I have found that the testing for prohibited substances has advanced to a stage that even very minute levels of a substance can be detected weeks or even months after it has been applied to a race horse. Therefore, setting threshold levels is a fundamental condition for fair testing and the Authority has a duty to comply with the relevant Rules.
The other issue of great concern to me in this enquiry is the procedure under which the testing was undertaken by the Authority. It is my view that fairness demands that the Authority should provide reasonable opportunity to the persons before it to avail themselves of laboratories with the requisite facilities and scientific knowledge and having an excellent reputation internationally so that all parties will have confidence in the test results.
It is my intention to bring the local racing industry into the modern age. Based on my reading of recent scientific opinion on the testing of race horses for prohibited substances I am satisfied that the modern racing industry has rejected a “zero tolerance” policy at least as regards pharmaceutical or therapeutic drugs used for the wellbeing of the race horse, since it recognises that there is a distinction between such drugs and performance enhancing drugs.
I have also noted with grave concern that the local racing industry has been in a sharp decline due to inter alia the following reasons:
a. the antiquated legislative structure that, among its other inadequacies, permits representatives of long defunct entities (such as the Tobago Race Club) to be
appointed to the boards of statutory corporations;
b. the inability of the three main institutions in racing, namely, the Arima Race Club, the Betting Levy Board and the Authority to properly undertake their respective functions;
c. the lack of accountability and policing in the conduct and management of racing fixtures and related activities;
d. the deterioration of the physical plant used for racing due to the lack of essential maintenance and investment and;
e. the general distrust and lack of interest in the racing industry that has been growing over the years and has now reached to a state of crisis. For the reasons set out above, I am of the opinion that if the current state of affairs is allowed to continue the local racing industry may collapse within the next few years. It is clear that the racing industry must be reformed and modernised. In the circumstances, it is my intention as an initial step to appoint a Committee to examine the Act and the Rules of Racing to determine and make recommendations on whether the Act or the Rules of Racing ought to be amended in the interest of the local racing industry after considering the views of the Authority and other stakeholders.
I also direct that the Authority provide me with an up-to-date list of all outstanding enquiries, details of the relevant facts and status updates on each of them so that I may consider whether it is in the best interest of the racing industry for any of those enquiries, if any, to be discontinued.
I intend in the coming weeks to write to the Arima Race Club and the Betting Levy Board and advise them of my proposals to reform and modernise the local racing industry.