Turn it up! Dark hour for harness racing

This week New Zealand harness racing faced its darkest hour.

There is simply no other way to describe the events that have unfolded as part of Operation Inca - arrests, raids, taped phone calls and allegations of race-fixing and drugs offences.

Ten people - eight harness racing identities and two linked to the industry - have been charged by police with either connection to race-fixing or drug supply.

Right now, to even be connected to the industry brings shame, and not because I, or many, many others have anything to be embarrassed about.

But because to many out there looking on we are part of the red-hots, the cheats on seats, the crims on rims and whatever else they call the sport.

There are thousands of harness racing participants who have given their life to the game.

Many are volunteers who have worked tirelessly and act only in the best interest of harness racing.

It is those people I think of at a time like this.

The freedoms, reputations,rights to work in the racing industry and significant incomes - which in some cases appear well into six figures a year -

of those charged are at stake.

Integrity issues have been one of the constant issues raised in this column since it began.

I have harped on at length about how vital a transparent and trusted betting product racing needs to be to retain its customer base.

I have previously written some pretty scathing comments about integrity matters, over incidents that I felt were questionable.

I am not suggesting I witnessed fixing or corruption.

What I am suggesting is I saw things that could leave punters with questions and raise integrity concerns.

I was supported by people I bumped into at the races but some who hold office in the sport were outraged.

I hope these incidents have shaken anyone who does not take the integrity of harness racing seriously.

It is every single participant's duty in the modern betting climate to present their runners to run on their merit and share information about their charges with stewards.

Here's hoping for happier trails.

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