What more do you need to know?
President Donald Trump on April 9, 2018:
“It’s an attack on our country….It’s an attack on what we all stand for.”
Trump is talking about:
a) A hostile nation interfering in the 2016 election for President; or
b) A search warrant approved by a federal judge allowing law enforcement to continue an investigation into possible criminal conduct by a member of Trump’s inner circle?
L’etat c’est moi.
Trainer Richard Dutrow is the subject of a petition drive to persuade the New York State Gaming Commission to reduce his 10-year ban. Dutrow was suspended in 2013 following the Commission’s determination that he had violated drug regulations and that his continued participation was “inconsistent with the public interest … and the best interests of racing generally.”
Fellow trainer Dale Romans is behind the petition, arguing that the Commission’s predecessor, the Racing and Wagering Board, “imposed a punishment of unprecedented severity – they revoked Rick’s training license for 10 years and fined him $50,000” even though the stewards had imposed only a 90-day suspension for two “alleged infractions.” Romans further stated that Dutrow “has never run afoul of the rules of racing concerning any prohibited substance.”
Dutrow has been a controversial figure. He achieved national attention in 2008 when his horse Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. He did not shy from the media spotlight, displaying an exuberant personality. But his record of numerous drug violations came to the fore, and Dutrow acknowledged using anabolic steroids on his horses. At the time, the steroids were not a prohibited drug.
The matters that were the subject of the disciplinary action occurred in 2010. On November 3, a search of his office at an Aqueduct barn uncovered three hypodermic syringes filled with xyzaline, a medication used to alleviate lameness and calm a nervous horse. Seventeen days later, a horse trained by Dutrow tested positive for the medication butorphanol in a post-race urinalysis.
The stewards at Aqueduct issued a 30-day suspension for possessing hypodermic needles, and 60 days for the post-race positive. The penalties were stayed because of an appeal filed by Dutrow’s attorney. The Gaming Commission then issued an Order to Show Cause why Dutrow’s license should not be suspended or revoked, and fines of $25,000 for each violation should not be assessed.
The case went to a hearing officer who conducted three days of hearing, and found against Dutrow on all counts. He recommended $50,000 in fines and a permanent revocation of Dutrow’s license. Following two years of litigation in the courts, the Commission upheld the report of the Hearing Officer in all respects, but reduced the permanent revocation to a 10-year ban.
For the record, I do not know Rick Dutrow and have never met him. I was aware of the buzz regarding drug violations, but do not take at face value such allegations without evidence. (I have also never met Dale Romans, but did have some excellent meals at a “pop-up” restaurant his family once ran several years ago during the Saratoga meet.)
I looked at all the records of Dutrow’s violations on the web site of the Gaming Commission going back to 2000. There were more than 20, but most of them were for minor violations, many of the “paper work” variety.
Some were not minor. In 2005, he rolled up three violations and was fined $5,000 and suspended for 60 days, including a post-race test for Mepivacaine. He was later fined $25,000 and suspended for 14 days for what I surmise (given the timing) was ignoring this earlier suspension by the Commission. In 2007, there was a $1000 fine and 7-day suspension for a post-race Bute positive. From 2007 to the events in 2010, he had one violation and a $250 fine.
The Dutrow record in New York presents an arguable case for leniency, particularly after serving half of the 10-
day year suspension. But the report of the Hearing Officer that was the basis for the lengthy penalty presents important context:
“Since 2003, Dutrow has been fined and/or suspended for numerous drug violations. He has had his license suspended for more than 10 days on three separate occasions; in 2003 for a mepivacine violation …; in 2004 for a clenbuterol violation …; and, in 2008 for a clenbuterol violation in Kentucky (15 days). In addition to those violations that warranted suspension, there are numerous other drug violations in Florida for the use of phenylbutazone…. Furthermore his New York State racing application history report and RCI comprehensive ruling report … reveals a consistent inability to abide by regulatory rules including a lack of truthfulness in statements to regulators (the RCI records indicate he has falsified license applications in California , Kentucky , and Delaware ).”
I do not think Dale Romans is helping his case by eliding important facts. When he says Dutrow never ran afoul of the rules concerning “prohibited substances,” he ignores the reality that a therapeutic drug can be permissible if properly administered. When it shows up in a horse at race time, it is now “prohibited.”
He also blames the admittedly severe penalty because “people didn’t like him,” as reported by Bill Finley at Thoroughbred Daily News. That opinion is undercut, however, by the testimony of state witnesses that they like Dutrow, finding him to be a “fine gentleman” and someone “who takes tremendous care of his horses.”
But his worse miscalculation may be the argument advanced to Finley that the syringes containing xyzaline found in Dutrow’s desk were “planted.” It is an assertion that is too convenient, and not one that Dutrow even advanced in his hearing.
And it could only have been planted by someone seeking to do Dutrow harm – either a private individual or, implicitly, the Gaming Commission that Romans has already accused of bias.
I obviously do not know if a private individual did it. But in my experience with those associated with the Gaming Commission, I have never had reason to question their integrity.
If the Dutrow camp is going to continue denying any fault, and seeking to accuse the licensing agency of dishonesty, they may as well wait to seek a license when the 10-year penalty is up in 2023.
The aversion of racing’s leaders to meaningful uniform anti-doping initiatives continues. Most recently, the CEO of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Agency, Eric Hamelback, once again opposed federal legislation that would place racing under the authority of a national agency. Unfortunately, Hamelback’s opposition was premised on a false statement of the content of the bill pending in Congress.
Writing in the Thoroughbred Daily News, Hamelback stated that the legislation “does not seek to place our industry into the hands of anti-doping experts with the ability to make common-sense distinctions between performance-enhancing drugs and those that aren’t.” That is because, he says, the appointed members of the oversight Board “have nothing to do with our industry.”
The Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017 would create a national board to establish and enforce uniform anti-drugging policies. It is, of course, highly controversial. One of the foremost arguments against it by opponents has been that the United States Anti-Drugging Agency (USADA) is not equipped to expand its jurisdiction from human athletes to equine ones.
Hamelback continues to perpetrate this myth, but the actual language from the Congressional bill contradicts his assertion. The bill creates a governing Board consisting of the USADA CEO, six additional members of the USADA board and the following members:
- at least one with “expertise in equine anti-doping and medication control regulation;”
- at least one with “significant experience as an owner” or with “expertise in the breeding of race horses;”
- at least one “formerly employed as an executive with a racetrack;”
- at least one vet with “expertise in equine veterinary practice with regard to race horses or expertise in veterinary research in matters affecting race horses;”
- at least one with “expertise in training;” and,
- at least one jockey.
The proposed law further requires USADA to solicit candidates from a “cross-section of equine industry representatives.” Simply put, the proposed Board would have plenty of representation of experienced and knowledgeable racing professionals.
Hamelback cites what he views as the injustices perpetrated recently on trainers he believes to be above approach such as Rusty Arnold, Joe Sharp and Bill Mott, claiming that a federal oversight agency would not prevent the abuses. The irony, however, is that he favors leaving in place the morass of some three dozen regulatory agencies that are the perpetrators of the injustices he cites.
Instead he advocates those who are outraged by inappropriate and unfair decisions to “get involved” – go to meetings, write letters, etc. Of course, in order to make informed arguments, one needs facts. I have no reason to question the integrity or innocence of any of the trainers cited in Hamelback’s piece. But saying “Rusty Arnold is a good guy” is not a sufficient reason – nor should it be – to overturn a drug positive. (The lab making the initial determination later discovered an error.)
The case with which I have the most familiarity is that of Bill Mott. He was penalized for a positive, but New York, unlike many jurisdictions, not only does not require a split sample but apparently routinely destroys them. Mott reportedly is now into six figures in legal fees and has taken his case to court after not getting redress before the Gaming Commission, the state’s regulatory body – the entity Hamelback seeks to retain.
I find the Mott case as I understand it to be an outrageous injustice because of New York’s continuing failure to remediate it. But Hamelback’s inaccurate assessment that a new federal agency would lack knowledgeable representatives of the industry actually does apply to New York’s Gaming Commission. I attended a public seminar conducted by the Commission on Lasix a couple of summers ago. It was abundantly clear that the commissioners who bothered to attend had no familiarity with the issue. That’s understandable given that the Commission has a broader jurisdiction than racing. But there are also none of the experience requirements that Hamelback thinks are so essential – and that are contained in the Horseracing Integrity Act.
The lackadaisical attitude of Hamelback’s organization, the NHBPA, for meaningful medication reform could not be better exemplified than the agenda for their national convention now underway in New Orleans. Although it is a five-day conference, only two agenda items can be considered to be remotely connected to addressing racing drug issues.
On Thursday, there is a 25-minute (sic) session on the “Trainer All Insurer Rule.” The next day, a two-hour session is entitled “Environmental Transfer, Cause for Concern in Racehorses: Inadvertent Exposure to Recreational and Prescription Medications.”
I doubt that I am going too far out on the ledge to predict that both sessions will again repeat the tiresome nonsense that racing is overwhelmingly drug free as shown by the low rate of post-race positives. Leaders such as Hamelback are among the few people involved with racing I have encountered who believe there is no problem worth a serious discussion.
Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, I was speaking with a despondent friend who despaired for the future of our country. I agreed that he was a repulsive and repugnant human being, but we should see what he does in office before making a judgment. He is much worse than I thought imaginable.
It seems that every week is described as the worst one in his presidency, but it will be difficult to surpass this last one – although I have no doubt he will. When the week ends with a report from the Wall Street Journal that your personal attorney paid $130,000 to a porn star to buy her silence a month before the election, and that is not even in the top three of negative stories, you have had a bad week.
It began, I guess predictably, with an effort to address the prior week’s top disaster, the Michael Wolff book describing our President as an unstable, lazy, ignoramus. After Trump declared he was a “stable genius,” his staff convinced him to do a televised meeting with Congressional leaders to negotiate a fix to the DACA issue. The need for this was occasioned by another of his disasters, his decision to repeal DACA, giving Congress six months to clean up the mess he created.
Immigration issues are, of course, his signature issue, and one that undoubtedly propelled him to the presidency. While the purpose of televising the negotiations was to convey an image of the leader in full control, it displayed the opposite. He clearly had no idea what he was talking about. At one point he agreed on an approach with a Democratic senator until one of the Congressional Republicans corrected him. The White House staff then displayed their Kremlinesque skills by deleting his agreement from the transcript they released.
Then we had the President tweeting his opposition to a bill in Congress that was his bill. While he is the chief executive for 16 national security agencies, he apparently derives his “intelligence” from the morning broadcast of Fox and Friends, or, as Esquire’s Charlie Pierce calls them, “Three Dolts on a Divan.”
The bill was a reauthorization of a section of the FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which, according to reports, is the source for much of the President’s Daily Intelligence Briefing – that is, if he ever decided to attend that. Panicked Republicans in Congress were finally able to get through to him to correct this mistake.
All of this paled – if you will excuse the expression – to his follow-up meeting on DACA in which he described African countries as “shitholes,” and said legislation should not permit Africans or Haitians in the country. He thought our immigration efforts should focus on countries like Norway. How is one of these not like the others? That’s kind of obvious, isn’t it?
Way too much of the ensuing media coverage focused on the President’s use of the word “shithole.” Two senators, Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham confirmed he said it. Two Republicans at first could not recall whether he said it, but miraculously later remembered he said “shithouse.” Your guess is as good as mine as to why they thought this distinction somehow aided the President, whose vulgarity has never been in doubt.
It doesn’t matter whether he said either word, or no offensive term at all. What matters is that the President of the United States stated his objective for an immigration policy that supports those from predominantly white countries while opposing immigrants from predominantly black countries.
If this were a one-time blip, it could perhaps be excused. But it continues a decades-long career of making negative comments about blacks, Latinos, Muslims, women, the disabled and anyone who dares question his judgment or policies (to the extent he has any).
Trump has said on several occasions that he is the “least racist” person you could ever meet. Setting aside the absurdity of such a claim – from anyone, not just this obvious bigot – it does not matter. His policies are bigoted and racist. It is not a coincidence that his neglect, and that of his Administration, “oversees” hundreds of thousands of American citizens on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands who have been without power for months since Hurricane Maria. He has spent more time fretting about football players protesting unequal treatment than doing anything about the suffering of our fellow citizens.
Yes, I was willing to give him a chance, but this presidency is the worst in my lifetime, if not in our nation’s history.
Today’s big story is the indictment of a Donald Trump campaign chairperson for a range of alleged offenses by the United States Special Counsel, Robert Mueller III. An indictment is serious, of course, but defendants Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are presumed innocent. No longer presumed innocent, however, is George Papadopoulos who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
Papadopoulos was a foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign. He has acknowledged colluding with the Russian government to assist the campaign of his boss. Stop me if you heard this one before, but the Russians gained access to Papadopoulos by promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
While there will undoubtedly be a concerted effort to minimize the importance of Papadopoulos by Trump and his surrogates, the campaign identified him as one of five foreign policy advisors to The Washington Post in March, 2016. He also kept senior campaign officials, including one Donald J. Trump, apprised of his contacts with representatives of the Russian government.
This is the first conviction resulting from Mueller’s investigation – at least that we know of – but there must be a bevy of nervous people who foolishly signed up for the Grifter-in-Chief’s con game. In Papadopoulos’ acknowledgement of guilt, he identified a “Campaign Supervisor,” “Senior Policy Advisor,” and “High-Ranking Campaign Official” as being aware of – indeed, encouraging – his frequent contacts with representatives of the Russian government.
Keep in mind that these are no longer allegations. They are included in a sworn statement he and his attorney signed on October 5. But they should not come as a surprise to those in the Trump Administration. He made many of the same statements on his Facebook account. Seriously. He talked about colluding with the Russians on Facebook and then lied to the FBI about it.