The industry needs Dana Parham’s integrity pledge

The prominent owner/breeder is asking all the people that work for him to sign his integrity pledge and hopes it, or something similar, gains widespread adoption in the industry.

by Dave Briggs

More than 13 years ago, in a Jan. 4, 2007 column I wrote for The Canadian Sportsman (full story here), I suggested the industry would benefit greatly from taking an oath or signing a code of conduct. I was reminded of that column on Saturday morning when prominent owner/breeder and former major standardbred bettor Dana Parham asked me to publish something similar — an open letter and integrity pledge (available below).

Parham owns some 250 standardbreds, including breeding stock. Even for a man of his prominence and influence in the industry, a pledge would be largely symbolic, of course. But I have never understood why all major industry partners — except for vets which have their own version of the Hippocratic Oath in both the U.S. and Canada (and likely elsewhere) — don’t insist their people agree to place integrity above all else for the betterment of the sport.

At the very least, taking such a pledge or signing such an oath before being allowed to conduct business would, among many things:

• Set the right tone of protecting the health and welfare of the horse.
• Show the public that bets on our product that integrity is the foundation of the industry.
• State unequivocally that there is no room in the sport for performance enhancing drugs used by people that are cheating both the game and their fellow horsepeople.
• Hold racetracks, horseperson associations, registrars and regulatory bodies to a higher standard.

Whether it is Parham’s pledge or something similar, it would be wonderful to see integrity pledges or oaths achieve widespread adoption. So, please share his pledge around (link here) or start your own.

To not stand for integrity leaves every person open to the question: What do you stand for?

Dana Parham’s open letter to the horse racing world:

I think it’s fair to say that anyone who loves our sport had to be sickened reading the FBI wiretaps on how cavalier veterinarians, trainers and caretakers mistreated and abused horses under their care. After reading the transcripts, I wanted to do something to counter the negative implications for our sport. I also wanted something in place before racing resumed.

I had some loose thoughts, and after consulting with Tony Alagna, Richard Arnold, Eric Cherry and Robin Schadt, the result was the following integrity pledge.

I am pleased to report that all of the trainers that I employ, happily signed the integrity pledge. They include: Tony Alagna, Ross Croghan, Scott Di Domenico, Virgil Morgan, Jeff Webster and Melanie Wrenn.

My next objective is to have all of the veterinarians associated with my horses sign a similar pledge. Also, any driver who abuses my horses by excessive whipping, slashing, kicking, etc., will be given one warning and after that, will not be asked to drive my horses for a period of one year.

I did not ask trainers who train only a single horse of mine to sign the integrity pledge.

I’m not going to pretend this solves our problems, it is just a hopeful start. Any other owners who would like to utilize this integrity pledge are welcome to do so.

—Dana Parham / Boca Raton, FL


Standardbred racehorses are loved, pampered and maintained from birth to the racetrack by the breeders and caretakers who have chosen to have relationships with these magnificent creatures. Once these horses are placed in training and competition, the vast majority of owners, trainers and caretakers continue the loving care of these great athletes.

I, Dana Parham, am committed to insuring that our beloved racehorses are not subjected to inappropriate, unethical, illegal or inhumane treatment while fulfilling their inherent desire to compete on the racetrack. In that regard I am asking that all trainers that are in my services make the following Integrity Pledge:

As a participant in the harness racing industry, I have the honor of having racehorses as part of my life. With that honor, comes the moral obligation to stand up for humane treatment of these great athletes while they are in training and competition.
To further those values, I pledge the following:

· To make it clear to all participants in our sport that I will not tolerate any mistreatment of our horses.
· To make it clear that the use of illegal drugs or treatments or substances on a race horse not only undermines the integrity of the sport, it constitutes, in my opinion, inhumane treatment of the racehorse.
· To make it clear to the whole industry that I will not do business with those who undermine the integrity of our sport by abusing our racehorses with illegal drugs and substances.
· To support the efforts of and to urge appropriate racing and law enforcement authorities to eliminate cheaters and abusers from our sport.

This is my solemn pledge and I understand this is a requirement for services to Dana Parham.

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