Prominent figures from the horse racing industry appeared on Thursday before members of the U.S. Congress to discuss the future of the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015 (H.R. 3084). The industry representatives were invited to participate in the panel by Congressional Horse Caucus Co-Chairs Andy Barr (R-Ky.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), who introduced the bipartisan bill last July in order to advance reforms aimed at promoting uniform medication standards across the 38 different racing jurisdictions in the United States.
This hearing presented an educational opportunity for Horse Caucus members and industry to examine the legislation and its authority to grant rulemaking, testing and enforcement of drug and medication use in Thoroughbred horse racing to an entity created under the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
In his opening statements, Barr said, “With the running of the 142nd Kentucky Derby next week, this is the right time to bring lawmakers and the horse industry together to build on the progress that has already been made toward uniform medication standards. At today's hearing, we received great feedback from expert witnesses from across the horse industry as we continue to build momentum and expand our coalition of support. I appreciate Congressman Tonko and all of the members of the Congressional Horse Caucus who participated in the hearing to learn more about our efforts to promote safety, integrity, and competitiveness in American horseracing.”
“The Thoroughbred industry is a year-round enterprise, responsible for a large number of quality jobs and economic growth,” Tonko said in his statement. “Stakeholders have taken significant steps in recent years toward medication reform, and together we can build on that work to provide a uniform, national standard of independence and integrity that ensures the health and prosperity of the sport. I thank today's panelists for their time and invaluable testimony on legislation that requires a thoughtful approach. I have a great deal of gratitude for Congressman Barr for his passion and determination to get this right, preserve thousands of jobs, and protect our equine athletes.”
Panelists who spoke before Caucus included racehorse owner/professional chef Bobby Flay; former Maryland Jockey Club Owner Joe De Francis; and Coalition members Craig Fravel, President & CEO of Breeders' Cup Ltd.; Chauncey Morris, Executive Director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders; and Eric Hamelback, CEO of the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. All but Hamelback spoke in support of the bill.
“Because we are a sea of individual jurisdictions,” said Flay in his statement, “we have not been even remotely close to getting everyone on the same page and I can say with the utmost certainty that will never happen. We need federal oversight and we need it now. … We need to rebuild the reputation of American horse racing so that the general public understands without question that we are putting the health and well-being of the horse first and foremost in the equation.”
The Congressional Horse Caucus is made of 28 representatives from both parties, and is tasked with raising awareness of the American equine industry and its economic impact on the U.S. Currently, the proposed H.R. 3084 has the support of 33 bipartisan members from the House of Representatives, including cosponsors from California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, New Jersey, New York and South Carolina.
In his statement, Fravel said, “We should not confuse progress with success and we who profess our commitment to integrity, uniformity and transparency should not be content with any system so long as there is room for major improvement.” He continued, “The system contemplated by H.R. 3084 shrinks 38 rulemaking and enforcement bodies to one. … It creates a system that makes sense, and I want to thank Congressman Barr and Congressman Tonko for their concern for our industry and their support for an effort to make a great sport as good as it can be.”
Hamelback gave several reasons the HBPA opposes the bill, including the U.S. Constitution's 10th amendment regarding states' rights. “Threatening critics with a federal bill which has been deemed likely unconstitutional by the Congressional Research Service is truly counter-productive to the end goal of all the members within our industry,” he said.
The horse racing industry has been working to advance better rules pertaining to drugs, drug testing and penalties through the National Uniform Medication Program (NUMP) on a state-by-state basis, and while progress has been made, there still remain significant inconsistencies in standards and enforcement in the 38 states that permit pari-mutuel wagering.
The Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity supports the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015, which would authorize an independent, racing-specific, non-governmental and non-profit organization to create uniform, high standards in drug and medication testing and enforcement for Thoroughbred horse racing. The new Thoroughbred Horseracing Anti-Doping Authority (THADA), to be governed by a board of six USADA board members and five independent individuals from the racing industry, would work collaboratively with state racing commissions and their respective staff members throughout the country, funded entirely by industry at no cost to taxpayers. Among the provisions in the proposed legislation, THADA would develop and administer a nationwide anti-doping program that would go into effect beginning January 1, 2017.
The Coalition's membership includes major racing organizations, animal welfare groups, racing and wagering facilities and a grassroots organization with over 1,300 owners, trainers, breeders, and racing professionals.
Additional information, including a list of coalition members, stories from supporters and ways to contact Congress to express support for this legislation, is available at www.horseracingintegrity.com.
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