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Study: West Virginia greyhound racing industry lacks drug use oversight

By PHIL KABLER

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An overview of drug testing at greyhound racetracks across the country over the past decade found a spike in positive drug tests in 2017, according to a report issued by Grey2K USA, a nonprofit dedicated to passing stronger greyhound protection laws and to ending greyhound racing nationally and worldwide.

While drug testing of greyhounds is intended to promote integrity and confidence in the races, the study found that racing regulators tend to have severely limited budgets to perform testing and, in most jurisdictions, do not publicly disclose test results.
(AP file photo)

Grey2K concluded that there were 847 positive tests for drugs during the period studied, with the number of positive tests spiking in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

While drug testing of greyhounds ostensibly is intended to promote integrity and confidence in the races, the study found that racing regulators tend to have severely limited budgets to perform testing and, in most jurisdictions, do not publicly disclose test results.
“If greyhound racing is going to continue in West Virginia, then issues like these need to be addressed,” said Carey Theil, executive director of Grey2K.

According to the report, the West Virginia Racing Commission spent about $300,000 on greyhound drug testing, second only to Florida’s $1.58 million, and well above the four other states where greyhound racing is conducted.

West Virginia also is one of three states that do not publish drug testing data in the racing commission’s annual report or other public documents, according to the study.

Joe Moore, executive director of the state Racing Commission, could not be reached for comment.

The Grey2K study determined that the drugs most commonly found in positive tests include stimulants, anesthetics and muscle relaxants.

The study also analyzed penalties imposed on greyhound trainers for drug positives and found that most received relatively small fines and short or no suspensions of their racing licenses.

Among the recommendations, the report calls for increased funding for greyhound drug testing, consistent drug testing for every greyhound race, annual reports by each racing jurisdiction that disclose all greyhound drug positives and standardized penalties for drug use violations.

“It’s my hope West Virginia legislators will read this report and will incorporate these recommendations into legislation next year,” Theil said.

Last session, Grey2K backed legislation to eliminate a requirement in West Virginia law that the state’s two greyhound racetrack casinos must have live racing to retain video lottery and table games licenses.

The “decoupling” bill passed the Legislature, but it was vetoed by Gov. Jim Justice over concerns that it could allow the operators of the Wheeling Island racetrack casino to move the casino out of Wheeling to a more accessible location.

Reach Phil Kabler at [email protected], 304-348-1220 or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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