Q&A On Horseracing Integrity & Welfare Unit's Intelligence And Investigations Division - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Q&A On Horseracing Integrity & Welfare Unit’s Intelligence And Investigations Division

HIWU directors Naushaun Richards (left) and Shawn Loehr (HIWU photos)

The Horseracing Integrity & Welfare Unit, established in 2022 by Drug Free Sport International, has been contracted to administer the rules and enforcement components of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority's Anti-Doping and Medication Control program.

While much of HIWU's responsibilities involve drug testing, both post-race and out-of-competition, other key elements involve intelligence and investigations. Overseeing those responsibilities are Naushaun “Shaun” Richards, Director of Intelligence and Strategy, and Shawn Loehr, Director of Investigative Services.

Richards came to HIWU from the FBI, where he served for 23 years and, among other cases, initiated and directed the agency's criminal investigation into the illegal misbranding of drugs and doping of racehorses that led to more than two dozen arrests and convictions. Loehr served as Chief of Enforcement and Licensing for the California Horse Racing Board and before that was chief investigator for Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance, district attorney investigator for Sacramento County, and a police officer in Redding, Calif.

Questions were submitted to HIWU by the Paulick Report and the responses are based on input from both Richards and Loehr.

With nearly 30 tracks racing on a weekend, how is HIWU structured to monitor and investigate, if necessary, across such a large area,  Are you taking a regional approach to oversight?

HIWU takes a hybrid approach to investigations to enable monitoring at tracks across the U.S. In states with voluntary agreements, we utilize existing state investigators. Their efforts will be supported by our own investigative staff network, which operates regionally and covers jurisdictions without signed voluntary agreements. This network includes individuals who previously worked for state racing commissions as well as local investigators recruited by HIWU.

In addition to being physically present at tracks, HIWU has an internal investigative team that is available to deploy throughout the country to tracks needing additional support. The internal investigative team also analyzes data, anonymous tips, and other relevant information and works with HIWU's other departments to execute its investigative strategies.

The HIWU Investigations Unit is a centralized clearinghouse of intelligence that organizes and disseminates information to the local and regional teams and works together on investigations, as appropriate. Overall, there's a uniform approach to the investigative processes with documentation requirements that are identical across racing jurisdictions, which was not the case prior to the implementation of the ADMC Program.

Under the old structure, some racing commissions, but not all, had on-track security/investigators, and some tracks, but not all, had their own security/investigators. Will those operations continue, with the personnel now reporting to HIWU instead of the state commissions or track managers?

Where applicable, the investigators are still state or track employees. However, all information pertaining to investigations must now be reported to HIWU, and investigations pertaining to HISA's Racetrack Safety and ADMC Programs must be authorized by HIWU. The resulting investigative reports are documented in a standard HIWU report format, and potential ADMC rule violations are reviewed by the HIWU legal team to determine whether charges will result.

Note: HIWU will send investigative reports regarding potential Racetrack Safety Violations to HISA. HIWU does not handle the prosecution of Racetrack Safety violations.

If the same personnel are in place, why should anyone believe there will be improvements over the old system?

HIWU's national investigative structure combines the expertise and experience of existing state investigators with the resources and skills of HIWU's staff, who bring their own wealth of knowledge, including prior investigative experience in the racing industry. For example, Naushaun “Shaun” Richards, HIWU's director of intelligence & strategy, comes from the FBI and initiated and directed the investigations of Servis, Navarro, and others. HIWU believes that these new synergies will be a force multiplier in terms of effectiveness on a broad scale to identify and catch bad behavior.

Furthermore, HIWU has the resources to analyze data and respond to information received from all states under HISA's jurisdiction via anonymous whistleblower platforms and ongoing investigations. HIWU's staff are not restricted by state borders and can build cases based on intelligence gathered on a national scale.

A major part of the FBI investigation involved wiretaps. Will HIWU have authority to go that far – or work with law enforcement and the courts – if it's believed there is probable cause?

Potential criminal cases that HIWU encounters in the course of investigations for HISA rule violations will be referred to applicable law enforcement agencies. HIWU will also support law enforcement in criminal investigations when appropriate but does not have the authority to use wire taps.

Another key part of the FBI probe was informants or embedded personnel. Will HIWU try to cultivate informants or place personnel in the backstretch community as part of their investigations?

The use of informants is one of many proven investigative techniques HIWU will use. We also anticipate extensive collaboration with on-site racing officials such as stewards and regulatory veterinarians.

Whistleblower programs existed in many states already and didn't seem to be that productive. What makes HIWU's whistleblower hotline different?

Establishing trust among industry participants is critical for the whistleblower platforms to be useful.

HIWU has partnered with RealResponse for these platforms. RealResponse is a market leader in this type of service, and its clients include MLB and USADA, among others. RealResponse uses encryption technology to ensure that tips are actually kept anonymous, which HIWU recognizes as a concern previously expressed by potential whistleblowers. They need to feel safe to come forward, and the platforms HIWU oversees ensure anonymity. The fact that HIWU is independent of racing commissions, racetracks, and other industry entities is also important in solidifying trust with stakeholders.

Ultimately, the platforms will only be productive if HIWU responds to the information received. HIWU does not face the limitations in staff, resources, and jurisdictional authority that may have hampered investigative or regulatory action in the past, so we are confident in our ability to incorporate anonymous tips into the broader investigative strategy.

What can you tell us about intelligence drug testing? How will that program work?

For the first time, Thoroughbred racing in the United States will be able to benefit from a nationwide intelligence-based testing strategy. This means test selections in and out of competition are influenced by intelligence received across racing jurisdictions via internal investigative analysis, anonymous tips, recommendations from racing officials, or other relevant factors. Since the Program is nationwide, relevant performance trends can be tracked on a national basis and won't be limited by state borders. The centralization of information also facilitates the detection of newly discovered/created substances/methods and testing/tracking them.

A key component of an intelligence-based strategy is a robust out-of-competition testing program. While a national, standardized out-of-competition testing program is new to Thoroughbred racing, such programs have long been an important part of human anti-doping programs. Historically, in human athletics, the addition of out-of-competition testing has resulted in more positive cases and stronger deterrence of the use of banned substances, and HIWU believes that out-of-competition testing will play a significant role in Thoroughbred racing as well.

Will HIWU be using specific tools that send off red flags on form reversals and/or dramatic improvements in horses, especially when they change from one barn to another? 

Analysis of past performances is included as part of HIWU's investigative strategies when recommending the use of testing, searches, and other investigative tools and strategies.

Will HIWU work with tracks to add surveillance cameras in stable areas? Will HIWU do its own surveillance independent of racetracks?

In addition to conducting independent surveillance, HIWU is partnering with tracks to utilize their existing cameras/surveillance systems. HIWU cannot compel tracks to install cameras but will be supportive within the given scope of our authority.

Will the integrity element of HIWU look for abnormal betting behavior and results, or potential race fixing involving jockeys? Or is the mission strictly defined in the area of doping violations?

HIWU can only investigate potential violations of HISA's Racetrack Safety and ADMC Programs. Thus, if the Investigations Unit discovers the examples listed above, they will be referred to the relevant regulatory body and/or law enforcement entity for investigation and/or prosecution. However, this type of behavior can be incorporated as supporting evidence into broader investigations pertaining to specific violations of either HISA Program.

HIWU provided the following additional information, including a guide to how individuals can submit tips to the whistleblower platform.

Examples of violations of HISA's Racetrack Safety and ADMC Programs include, but are not limited to:

  • Use/attempted use, administration/attempted administration, trafficking/
    attempted trafficking, or possession of a Banned Substance/Method.
  • Use of a Controlled Medication Substance/Method in a manner contrary to
    horse welfare.
  • Evasion of sample collection.
  • Tampering or attempted tampering with the ADMC Program.
  • Falsified or improper veterinary records.
  • Paper training.
  • Use of buzzers.
  • Improper use of shockwave therapy.

Any activity implicating horse welfare is a potential violation of the Racetrack Safety Program.

Examples of information that can be included in an anonymous tip:

  • Names of Covered Horse(s).
  • Names of specific trainers or other Covered Persons.
  • Names of substances.
  • Specific barns.
  • Other identifying information about the Covered Persons or Covered Horses relevant to the potential violation.

Reporting information: Telephone Line: (888) 714-HIWU

Text Line: (855) 901-TIPS

Email Address: [email protected]

All three options accept submissions 24/7. Please note that the telephone line will not accept submissions via text, and the text line will not accept phone calls.

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