Congressman Andy Barr (R-KY) and Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY), the Co-Chairmen of the Congressional Horse Caucus, today introduced H.R. 2651, the Horseracing Integrity Act. The legislation, an updated version of the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015, establishes an authority to create and implement a national uniform medication program with input from the horse industry.
“With growing momentum and support, the time has come for uniform medication rules in American horse racing,” said Congressman Barr. “Uniform rules will ensure the integrity and competitiveness of American horse racing and lay the groundwork for the future success of this great American sport. I am grateful for Congressman Tonko and our coalition for their work over the last two years to improve this legislation which has broadened our base of support and will help us to pass this bill into law.”
“I am excited to partner once again with Congressman Barr on this critical issue,” said Congressman Tonko. “A single, national approach to medication testing with strong independent oversight and enforcement is long overdue. This will help ensure the long-term viability of horseracing by bringing greater integrity to the sport and enhancing the care and welfare of horses. Much is at stake here, especially in regions like ours with long historic ties to an industry that contributes $4 billion to the New York economy each year, much of it in and around the Saratoga Race Course.”
Under existing law, the American horse racing industry labors under a diverse patchwork of conflicting and inconsistent rules governing medication policies and practices across dozens of different racing jurisdictions. This lack of uniformity in the rules of horse racing has impaired interstate commerce and undermined public confidence in the sport.
There are a few key differences between the new legislation and the version introduced in 2015. For one, the new act will also apply to Quarter Horse and Standardbred racing, although it's not clear major industry organizations for either have formally announced support. For another, the new legislation will prohibit administration of any medication within 24 hours of a race.
The 2017 bill also strengthens out-of-competition testing, which is currently conducted with similar state-to-state variability as post-race testing. It's believed the third-party testing organization would also mandate double blind proficiency testing for laboratories and coordinate research efforts. A unified third-party organization may also implement a tracking system to record the location of horses at all times, as an aid to random out-of-competition testing.
Additionally, the new bill was constructed to address concerns with the constitutionality of the 2015 bill. It will also place the non-governmental, independent testing organization under the watch of the Federal Trade Commission. The funding mechanism for the bill, which calls for the industry to finance the independent government authority with no aid from takeout or taxpayers, remains unchanged.
The 2015 version of the bill had more than 90 cosponsors the last time it was introduced, and Tonko said he expected all of those cosponsors to be on board again this year. The Congressmen said they need to confirm cosponsors and build support before bringing the bill to a hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is the first in a long line of steps before adoption. Tonko anticipated this would be accomplished “as soon as possible.”
The legislation is supported by a growing coalition of individuals and organizations representing a broad spectrum of interests across the horse industry including: the Water Hay Oats Alliance, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, the Jockey Club, and Keeneland Association. The bill received a major boost last month when it was endorsed by Frank Stronach and the Stronach Group, one of the world's leading racetrack operators and suppliers of pari-mutuel wagering technology.
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart released the following statement on the bill:
“We're honored to be a part of Congressmen Barr and Tonko's efforts to bring a uniform and independent anti-doping program to horse racing. It's a significant step in the right direction, and we fully support the effort to protect the health of all equine athletes and provide a much-needed fair and level playing field across the country.”
Shawn Smeallie, executive director of The Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity released the following statement:
“Representatives Barr and Tonko deeply appreciate the scope and economic impact of horse racing, not only in their home states but across the country, and they should be commended for their devotion to an ongoing legislative effort that will help ensure the future of our horse racing. Both of them, along with their respective staff members, have worked closely with a broad range of equine industry stakeholders to revise the original bill they introduced in July 2015 and with their colleagues in the House of Representatives and United States Senate. We are grateful for their diligence.”
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, released this comment:
“The time for excuse-making is over within the U.S. horse racing industry. Get on board with uniform anti-doping policies or get out of the way … The Horseracing Integrity Act (H.R. 2651) is a step-up from prior versions of the bill, not least because it seeks to bring regulation to all of horse racing and to ban any same-day drugging of horses. In short, the bill is stronger than ever, and animal advocates and players within the industry who care about the sport and the horses should saddle up and get behind it.”
The Water Hay Oats Alliance released the following comments from its supporters:
“There is no alternative.”
James E. Bassett, Keeneland Trustee Emeritus
“We as track operators, horsemen and regulators must do everything we can to eliminate race-day medications and consider the support of federal legislation to create a more uniform set of rules and regulations. The integrity of our sport and the safety of our athletes, both human and equine, should and must always be of paramount concern.”
Frank Stronach, Owner/Breeder, The Stronach Group
“The continued use of performance-enhancing drugs is dangerous to both our horses and human athletes. Customers have lost confidence betting on horse racing because of the lack of integrity in regards to drug use and the public views our sport as dirty. Members of our industry have refused change for too long; this step towards cleaning up the sport and restoring integrity must be taken if our sport is to survive.”
Jeffrey R. Gural, Owner/Breeder, New Meadowlands Racetrack
“This is a bill our industry needs to support. It accomplishes our goals and creates a national framework. HIA would place USADA as the governing authority over medication issues in racing. USADA is an independent, non-profit, non-government authority. Travis Tygart as its CEO, is strong, committed and fair and would be the perfect overseer. Passage of this bill would be a huge step in reestablishing our credibility with mainstream America.”
Bill Casner, Owner/Breeder
“We must personally ensure that horses themselves regain their position as the heart of this industry, and a large part of that endeavor will be the elimination of the seemingly limitless medications and the return to a pursuit based on respect for the horse… If the industry as a whole does not make these changes, it's not the horses who have failed us-it is we who have failed the horse, and we will all pay the price.”
Antony Beck, Owner/Breeder
“I believe the time has come, and it should have been years earlier, for national standards, not state standards which today vary from state to state, to be enacted that guarantee race day horses are clean of drugs and therapeutic medication on race day. The inability of our industry and its volumes of committees and the variety of each state's own programs, give no confidence to our audience and costs owners countless unnecessary dollars.”
Gary Biszantz, Owner/Breeder
“Over the last five years WHOA has continued to gain support for its core goals: federal legislation to ban race day medication and appoint the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to develop and manage a gold standard anti-doping program for U.S. racing, bringing uniformity across state lines.”
Barry Irwin, Owner/Breeder
“Every competitor and everyone betting on a race would be getting a fair shake if this legislation becomes law. It would undoubtedly enhance the welfare of our equine athletes and the integrity of our sport. I am not alone in my support for this bill. Several racing organizations have formed an advocacy group known as the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, or CHRI, to encourage the adoption of this legislation.”
Penny Chenery, Owner/Breeder
“‘It is becoming increasingly obvious that we are at war on the issue of medication, … at war among ourselves. We will lose that war by default if every organization in racing continues to forge its own consensus on medication. The time has come for us to end our internal disputes and come together to find an equitable solution to this program. I recognize that it is a complicated program and that feelings are strong and polarized. But if our industry wants to control its own destiny, … we must develop support for an industry wide medication policy and then take effective actions to restore public confidence in racing.'
I said this 37 years ago and it is even more important today.”
Nicholas F. Brady, Owner/Breeder
“As an owner and a breeder of thoroughbred horses, I believe that humane treatment and fair competition of our horses are the core values of the sport of thoroughbred racing. Until there is unification, the rules governing anti-doping and medication use will be unable to assure the integrity of competition or sportsmanship. These goals can only be accomplished through the appointment of USADA, whose administration will lead to and put in force a new world of no medication.”
Marie Jones, Owner/Breeder
“The present rule permitting drugs has compromised the integrity of horse racing and has been a major factor in attendance and for interest falling to an all-time low. I think now is the time to stop all race-day medication. If you are not a horseman and can't figure out how to keep a horse healthy and happy, then maybe you should go lay carpet or pump gas. A good horseman doesn't need all that medication. You have to work on and with the horse. I have been an outspoken advocate against drugs at the racetrack for years. I support … federal legislation to bring clean racing to our sport.”
Jack Van Berg, Hall of Fame Trainer
“It is imperative that we bring uniformity to our North American racing. Clean racing and a level playing field are essential to be in line with rest of the world. We have been making very small steps in this direction, to no avail as I see it. It is now time to take large strides to accomplish this.”
Roger Attfield, US and Canadian Hall of Fame Trainer
“It is now time to move forward. Horse Racing relies on the major economic input of two sources … the gambling customer and the race horse owner. We owe it to our customers to provide them with a uniform product which is beyond reproach, and we owe the race horse owner the opportunity to safely and fairly compete.”
John Ward, Classic Trainer and Past Chair of ARCI
“The past proves that the industry is incapable of implementing these necessary changes on its own. It is easy to object, it takes vision and leadership to break from “tradition”. Isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result? The proposed legislation has gone through the process of listening and making changes which is the correct process. There is no such thing as the perfect legislation, but if it meets the needs of the whole, it is worthy of implementation. ”
David Switzer, Former Executive Director KTA and KTOB
“It will make this game safer for everybody, riders and horses. It will be good for the integrity of the sport. It has to be a national group, with one law for every state.”
Edgar Prado, Hall of Fame Jockey
“What has taken the thoroughbred racing and breeding industries so long to get behind a concerted effort to establish uniform medication rules across state lines? I believe it is imperative that the efforts to establish uniform medication rules, including the penalties that should be imposed on any person(s) violating such rules, should be the most important item on any agenda related to thoroughbred horse racing. That being said, I'm in favor of The Horseracing Integrity Act. How else are we to protect the horses, the jockeys, the owners, the breeders and the betting public?”
Chris McCarron, Hall of Fame Jockey
“Lasix sits at the heart of drug use with Thoroughbred horses in the United States. Those of us who travel the world in this industry realize that virtually all of the other racing countries execute their racing under the guidelines proposed by WHOA. There, the horses race and the industry goes forward, drug free.”
Monty Roberts, Trainer, “The Man Who Listens to Horses”
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