Today, U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Andy Barr (R-KY), who represent two of the meccas of American Thoroughbred racing – Saratoga Springs and Lexington – introduced the Horseracing Integrity Act to create a uniform national standard for drug testing that would be overseen by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
“My team and I have been chomping at the bit to get the Horseracing Integrity Act back in the starting gate for the 116th Congress,” said Rep. Paul Tonko. “We set a fast pace last session, garnering more cosponsors down the stretch than ever before in our efforts to get this bill across the finish line. In all seriousness, I look forward to continuing our important bipartisan work to pass this worthy legislation so that we can do right by our equine athletes and ensure that horse racing can thrive as an industry that will capture the public's imagination for generations to come.”
“As the Representative of the Horse Capital of the World, I am proud to once again introduce the Horseracing Integrity Act with my colleague Congressman Paul Tonko,” said Rep. Andy Barr. “I continue to believe the future prosperity of Kentucky's signature horseracing industry depends on national uniform standards and testing procedures that are critical to the integrity and safety of the sport. Last Congress, we secured more than 100 cosponsors, and I look forward to building upon this bipartisan work to restore international competitiveness and public confidence in this great American sport.”
“We are sincerely grateful to the Co-Chairmen of the Congressional Horse Caucus, Congressmen Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Andy Barr (R-KY), for sponsoring this legislation, critical to America's horse racing future,” said the Water Hay Oats Alliance. “Since 2012, WHOA has worked with legislators in Washington D.C. to create a bill that would create an independent horse racing anti-doping authority under the leadership of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). With uniform rules, testing procedures, lab accreditations and penalties, the proposed nationwide anti-doping program for horse racing would replace the patchwork of state systems that currently govern horse racing's 38 jurisdictions.
“Members of the Water Hay Oats Alliance continue to support a ban on race day medication and the development of rules in step with international standards.”
“This is a horse-first bill. This bill will help ensure a safer environment for horses and riders at all tracks,” said Shawn Smeallie, executive director of Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity (CHRI). “Representatives Tonko and Barr, along with their respective staff members, have worked tirelessly on this legislation. Thanks to their efforts, this initiative has gained the support of key stakeholders across the industry and continues to gain momentum. We look forward to working with other racing industry organizations to ensure productive legislative activity this year.”
H.R. 1754 is nearly identical to the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017 (H.R. 2651), also introduced by Reps. Barr and Tonko, which garnered the bipartisan support of more than 130 representatives last Congress. Joining the effort in 2019 are Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection & Commerce, and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL), co-chairs of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus. CHRI is hopeful and optimistic that the legislation will move through the committee process this year, building on this strong showing of support from key lawmakers.
“Horse should run on hay, oats, and water, not on a cocktail of performance enhancers and medications,” said Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action. “Our organization has already completed more than 150 meetings with key legislators on this issue in 2019, and we are pleased to join leaders in the horse racing industry and animal protection groups that have come together to end a shameful period where unscrupulous trainers have put horses and jockeys at risk.”
The Horseracing Integrity Act is backed by the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, which includes Animal Wellness Action, The Jockey Club, The Breeders' Cup, The Preakness Stakes (Stronach Group), The Belmont Stakes (New York Racing Association), Keeneland, and the Water Hay Oats Alliance.
Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) president Ed Martin released the following statement in response to the news late Thursday:
The Association of Racing Commissioners International is disappointed that the sponsors of the re-introduced federal legislation have totally ignored the needs articulated on behalf of those responsible for policing the sport of horse racing.
The sponsors of this legislation have proposed nothing to address the significant part of the race horse industry that is totally unregulated.
This bill will do nothing to protect horses. It is shocking that the use of bisphosphonates on young horses is not addressed given the significant concern that they adversely affect bone development in young horses and contribute to stress fractures as they do in other mammals.
We already know stress fractures can be a precursor to increased risk of a catastrophic breakdown. This issue was presented to lawmakers at the public hearing on this proposal in the last Congress, yet they continue to focus on repealing a long standing equine welfare program permitting a controlled furosemide administration on race day proven to be helpful to the health of the horse and recently affirmed by a consensus statement from the independent American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
Unfortunately, the constructive suggestions of what the federal government could do to safeguard horses and help integrity efforts in racing continue to be ignored. Here are the suggestions that were presented in my testimony last year.
The federal government could –
- Require all horses bred to be racehorses be registered with and come under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) which would have the ARCI maintain this data for use jointly by APHIS and the state racing commissions;
- Empower APHIS to make rules affecting young horses not yet under the jurisdiction of a state racing commission;
- Direct APHIS to contract with state racing commissions for the purpose of out-of-competition equine welfare examinations to determine adherence to the APHIS rules;
- Authorize APHIS to recover costs for such inspections from the owners of any horse inspected, consistent with state racing commission contracts entered into for this purpose;
- Require that a portion of the existing funds – $9.5 million – appropriated by Congress each year for anti-doping programs through the White House Office of National Drug Policy be available to fund anti-doping research of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium consistent with anti-doping needs identified by the Organization of Racing Investigators or the ARCI;
- Adopt the ARCI Model Rules affecting equine welfare and medication by reference, thereby achieving universal uniformity in regulation;
- Require the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to each dedicate at least one agent for the sole purpose of assisting state racing commissions in the conduct of investigations, particularly those that cross jurisdictional lines. Note: The FDA already has such an investigator assigned.
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