By Marty Irby
Campaign to end race-day doping in Thoroughbred racing sees tremendous success
Washington, D.C.: In the biggest gain for animal welfare in 2020, and in the $900 billion year-end spending bill, President Donald J. Trump signed into law the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA), H.R. 1754/S. 4547.
This concludes an eight-year campaign to end medication abuses leading to breakdowns, injuries and deaths on tracks across the nation. The House passed H.R. 1754, led by U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Andy Barr, R-Ky. by a voice vote in September. But the Senate had not taken up S. 4547 introduced by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Martha McSally, R-Ariz., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. that promises to end the era of widespread doping of horses in Thoroughbred racing in America.
“The signing of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is the biggest gain in Congress for horses in half a century. It puts the welfare of horses at the center of the enterprise, and the sport on a level playing field that aligns with the rest of the world,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action. “We applaud Senators Mitch McConnell, Kirsten Gillibrand, Diane Feinstein, and Reps. Paul Tonko and Andy Barr for saddling up and pushing the ban on doping in Thoroughbred horse racing over the finish line.”
Marty was named one of The Hill’s Top Lobbyists for 2020 and was recently recognized by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, II for his work to protect horses.
“We don’t allow doping of athletes in cycling, baseball, and other professional sports,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “It should be a no-brainer to forbid this form of cheating and dangerous treatment of horses in American Thoroughbred racing, too.”
“Kentucky’s cherished horseracing traditions deserve to be protected. I’m proud the Senate agreed to my legislation to preserve our signature racing industry and the 24,000 workers who support it,” said Senator Mitch McConnell. “With the leadership of Congressman Andy Barr and the partnership of sport leaders, horse advocates, and fans, we’re one step closer to promoting fairness and safety across Thoroughbred racing. As Majority Leader, I made this Kentucky-focused legislation a top priority in the Senate. I look forward to this major advancement for our beloved sport becoming law.”
“With today’s passage of HISA in Congress we are in the final stretch of achieving the most transformational and consequential reform of the Thoroughbred horseracing industry since enactment of the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978,” said Congressman Andy Barr. “For almost a decade, I have worked with industry stakeholders and my Congressional colleagues to build consensus around reforms that will protect equine athletes and strengthen confidence and international competitiveness in the sport. I am proud to champion this historic, bipartisan legislation with Congressman Paul Tonko and Leader McConnell and I look forward to President Trump signing it into law.”
“For six years now, I have worked in a bipartisan fashion with my friend and partner in this effort, Congressman Andy Barr, to reform this noble sport to ensure it can continue to provide good jobs and support economic vitality in Saratoga Springs and communities like it throughout the nation,” said Congressman Paul Tonko. “Our Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act does this by putting the well-being of our horses and jockeys front and center, delivering common sense medication reforms and track safety standards that will restore public trust and confidence. After this long race, I am delighted to see our legislation finally reach the winner’s circle and I look forward to ensuring a strong implementation of these new standards so that the sport of horseracing can thrive for generations to come.”
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act includes a ban on race-day doping and the establishment of a uniform national standard for rules and regulations for U.S. horseracing that would be overseen by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) is landmark legislation that would directly address the safety and welfare of racehorses, and the integrity of the sport itself, through better anti-doping measures and racetrack safety standards. The doping of American racehorses has been the subject of Congressional attention over the past five years with hundreds of horses dying on racetracks weekly, and the indictment of 37 trainers and veterinarians in March of 2020.
The bill has the support of Animal Wellness Action (AWA), the Animal Wellness Foundation (AWF), Horses for Life Foundation, the American Horse Protection Society, the Center for a Humane Economy, and key players throughout the horse racing industry, including all three Triple Crown racetracks. Churchill Downs, which runs the Kentucky Derby, is the most recent corporation to get on board. The effort continues to enjoy the support of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity (CHRI), which includes The Jockey Club, the Breeders Cup, Keeneland Racecourse, the New York Racing Association, The Stronach Group, the Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association, the Water Hay Oats Alliance, U.S. Harness Racing Alumni Association, and Animal Wellness Action.
The patchwork of regulations across the U.S.’s 38 racing jurisdictions has undermined the public’s confidence in horseracing, threatened the integrity of competition, and endangered the human and equine athletes. Enactment of the HISA will address these problems head-on while helping to enhance the public’s interest in this very important industry. For the safety of the horses and jockeys, and for the sport of horseracing itself, American horseracing needs the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020.
In order to create these uniform performance and safety standards for the sport of horseracing, the HISA creates the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, which is a private, independent, self-regulatory, nonprofit organization. Not funded by the federal government, the horseracing industry will pay the funds necessary for the establishment and administration of the Authority. The Authority is responsible to develop and implement the horseracing anti-doping and medication control program, plus a racetrack safety program.
Composition of the Authority
Governed by a Board of Directors, The Authority consists of nine members. Five members will be independent of the industry, and four members will be experts from the following sectors of the industry: owners and breeders, trainers, racetracks, veterinarians, State racing commissions, and jockeys. To assist with the development of these programs, the Board will establish an anti-doping and medication control standing committee and a racetrack safety standing committee, both controlled by independent members outside the industry. All independent members of the Board and standing committees will be subject to strict conflict-of-interest standards.
The Authority will be charged with creating a set of uniform anti-doping rules, including lists of prohibited substances and methods, protocols governing the administration of permitted substances plus laboratory testing procedures and accreditation. Identification of permitted and prohibited substances and practices will be developed after taking into consideration international anti-doping standards and veterinarian ethical standards, along with consulting racing industry representatives and the public. The new nationwide rules would replace the current patchwork of regulatory systems that govern horseracing’s 38 separate racing jurisdictions. For services related to the enforcement of this program, the Authority shall enter into an agreement with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which has a proven track record of conducting anti-doping and medication control activities for all U.S. Olympic athletes and its approach can easily be adapted to horseracing.
Racetrack Safety ProgramTo protect the health and safety of racehorses and jockeys, the Authority will also create a racetrack safety program, consisting of a uniform set of training and racing safety standards and protocols. Those standards include racetrack design and maintenance, oversight of human and equine injury reporting and prevention, and the procedures for undertaking investigations at racetrack and non-racetrack facilities related to safety violations. The Authority creates an accreditation program to ensure that racetracks comply with these safety procedures, and in order to continue to gather information on racetrack safety, the Authority will establish a nationwide database of racehorse safety, performance, health, and injury information within one year of the establishment of the program.