The Jockey Club today released a major white paper calling for comprehensive reform of the U.S. horse racing industry including a major overhaul of drug use and uniform out-of-competition drug testing, citing the need for “transparency into the medical treatment, injuries, and health of all racehorses.”
The paper's release follows the death of 22 racehorses at California's Santa Anita Park in less than three months. The Jockey Club wrote that “it would be a mistake to view the Santa Anita fatalities as an isolated situation — spikes in the deaths of horses have occurred at other tracks and they will continue to occur without significant reforms.”
The Jockey Club was particularly critical of drug use in the horse racing industry saying that “improper drug use can directly lead to horse injuries and deaths. Horses aren't human and the only way they can tell us if something is wrong is by reacting to a symptom. If that symptom is masked, the results can be devastating.” And that “we lag behind cheaters and abusers and by the time we have caught up they have moved on to the next designer substance.”
The Jockey Club expressed its strong support for federal legislation citing the Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2019, H.R. 1754, which would create a private, independent, horse racing anti-doping authority responsible for developing and administering a nationwide anti-doping and medication control program. The program would be administered by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, the body responsible for administering anti-doping programs for human athletes including the U.S. Olympic teams.
“For far too long, cheaters have been abusing the system and the horses are most often the ones to suffer,” said James L. Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club. “It is particularly disturbing that there is little out-of-competition drug testing in the United States. U.S. horse racing lags far behind international standards. It's time we joined the rest of the world in putting in place the best measures to protect the health and safety of our equine athletes.”
In addition to reforming how drugs are used and monitored, The Jockey Club is calling for other reforms targeted at health of equine athletes, including:
· Enhanced Race Surface Analysis
· Reporting of all Injuries During Racing and Training
· More Comprehensive Pre-race Veterinarian Examination
· Use of Approved Medications Only
· Confirmed Fitness to Train
· Industrywide Contributions to Aftercare
“Will we ever know the exact cause of spikes in horse fatalities? Unless there is change in the industry that answer is, sadly, probably not,” wrote The Jockey Club. “A key to this change is the requirement of full transparency into the medical treatment, injuries, and health of all racehorses. Today, we can't fully see what is going on with a horse because of differing state and track practices, antiquated practices, and purposeful deceit about what drugs are given to horses at what times.”
The Jockey Club is the breed registry for Thoroughbreds in North America. Since its founding 125 years ago, it has been dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing, focusing on improvements to the integrity, health, and safety of the sport. The Jockey Club has long held that horses must only race when they are free from the effects of medication.
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