Pitts: Proposed Legislation ‘Masquerades Under The Veneer of Reform’

by | 07.17.2015 | 2:52pm
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), left, and Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa)

Congressman Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) joined with Senator Tom Udall (D-NM.) to comment on thoroughbred horse racing legislation introduced on Thursday.

The Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act would create a new organization, the Thoroughbred Horseracing Anti-Doping Authority (THADA), to regulate medication use in Thoroughbred horse racing and allow drugs to be used on race day.

This legislation is markedly different from reform legislation introduced by Congressman Pitts and Senator Udall.

Rep. Pitts has introduced legislation with Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Anna Eshoo to authorize the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which tests, for example, Olympic athletes, to also conduct anti-doping tests on racehorses. This legislation would not be limited to thoroughbred racing, but include Quarter Horse and Standardbred racing. Moreover, it would allow USADA to permanently ban bad actors from the sport.

Rep. Pitts and Sen. Udall have introduced legislation to repeal the Interstate Horseracing Act, the statute which grants horse racing the privilege of interstate gambling over the wire. Over 90% of horse racing revenue is received from this source, and, as a consequence, it creates an incentive to win at all costs. Repealing this privilege would put pressure on the industry to put in place strict rules to end doping, including raceday medication.

Congressman Pitts stated: “This new proposal masquerades under the veneer of “reform” but sadly, if enacted, would actually make matters worse by allowing drugs and medications to be used in race horses on race day. This is unacceptable and this is why real reform has as its foundational underpinnings, a ban or prohibition of drugs, all drugs, in horses on race day. Not only does this bill not ban race day medication, but it does not require stiff penalties for cheating, nor does it apply to Quarter horse and Standardbred racing. With 24 horses dying on America's tracks every week, it's past time to enact true reforms that protect these magnificent creatures from the scourge of doping.”

Senator Udall stated: “I welcome new interest in pursuing doping reform legislation from horseracing industry groups and members of the Congressional Horse Caucus. Unfortunately, the bill introduced by Representatives Tonko and Barr falls far short of what is needed to end the scourge of doping in the Sport of Kings. It does nothing to protect Quarter Horses and Standardbreds. The bill lacks strong enforcement and also delegates federal authority to a racing industry group, preempts state racing laws and taxes state governments.”

Horseracing showcases the beauty of an iconic American animal. Chronic abuse of performance-enhancing drugs in horse racing threatens an industry that has a more than $25 billion annual economic impact and sustains about 380,000 jobs nationwide.

  • Ernest Vincent

    Holy cow that’s a ton of money and a load of jobs.
    The inherent problem unlike sports franchises, college sports is racing is a zero sum game for the money math model.

  • peyton

    This IMO is probably the better of the two.

    • Thank you Peyton, now I know which bill is better–anyone that you do not support.

  • mikec

    “Chronic abuse of performance enhancing drugs”

    …..would be nice if they had PROOF

    • Ben van den Brink

      LASIX, the Well known diuretic. If one rippes weight of horses, than they are faster.

      • mikec

        Lasix is used, not abused, by a majority of the industry. Mostly the minority elites are objecting.

        • Ben van den Brink

          There is no way that 95% from the racehorses are in the need of that stuff. Otherwise it would far and far better to stop racing at all in the US.

          The ifha took the way of welfare first, than welfare, but the US keeps first the trainers, than the vet,s and than the owners and by far last the horsies.

          • mikec

            Simple solution. Horse bleeds in training or racing, it gets Salix!

          • LongTimeEconomist

            That’s the way it was 35 years ago. Look what happened in the interim.

          • Ben van den Brink

            Lasix, is not improving bad bleeders at all. Lasix is not needed in 55% from the racehorse population, because these horses will not bleed a single drop. 15% bleeds a single drop, but that will not effect the outcome, so the 25% rules over the 75%. Total madness and horse abuse.

          • Ben van den Brink

            Just perfectly the reason that the stuff is an performance enhacer PUR SANG.

            Vet,s decision OH I saw blood in the trachea. (less than a single drop) put the horse on lasix. The horse qualified for the stuff.

          • Peyton

            Only problem is that is not the rule now. Basically the rule is if the trainer and vet think it is in the best interest for the horse to race on Lasix it can be put on the list. No proof required that the horse bled. And so upwards of 95% of all entries are racing on Lasix.

        • Exactly the opposite is true. Lasix is supposed to be given to horses that have demonstrated they are bleeders. A tiny minority suffer from bleeding, yet 95% of the horses run on it, hence its handle as the most abused drug in horseracing.

          • WelbourneStud

            And by giving horses drugs without having diagnosed them with a medical condition (i.e., EIPH), all those vets have just violated the AVMA’s code of ethics.

          • mikec

            nonsense that a tiny percentage bleed, if every horses was scoped after every work/race the incidents of a 1 to 5 bleed would be far greater than 5 %

          • Neigh Sayer

            Actually I believe it was Australia who did a study of thousands of horses over a period of years. They have the best study and the best take on lasix and how to handle bleeders.
            By they way, using a scale of 1-5 which isn’t accurate, but if you used a scale like that it would be greater than 5% but what you fail to realize is that a 1 is not a true bleeder, or a 2 for that matter. Go run around around the block, and we’ll scope you. Yep, your a 1 or 2. So next time you leave the house make sure you take your lasix. True bleeders are less than 5%.

          • mikec

            Nonsense, you have no clue as to how a horse reacts to bleeding whether it be a 1 or 5 level.

          • Neigh Sayer

            You would be very wrong on that assumption of yours. And a 1 is not actually bleeding as you think which is why a scope is needed to detect it. You might want to look up how that’s done and what a 1 is on the scale.
            Now go take your lasix before going out for a walk. Then take 3 or so days to replenish your fluids and get your energy back.

          • mikec

            Actually you have no idea what you are talking about. I am immersed in the subject matter and every credible study done on lasix

          • Neigh Sayer

            I think you’re a salix salesman. How can you be immersed in it if you never read that study or don’t know what a 1 on the scale is. Say what you want, I’m done. If you read that most credible study, you would know they don’t allow lasix, and if a horse continues to bleed he’s ruled off and can’t breed. And the actual bleeders are less than 5%. So you didn’t read it. Have at it.

          • Bill O’Gorman

            I was immersed in the horses rather than the subject matter for some time. I was fairly hard on my horses. They seemed to stand it pretty well. I don’t remember a single one that I/we/anyone said “if only we could run on Lasix”, and I never gave a horse Lasix in the morning either. [ sorry to pontificate, but you started it}

          • mikec

            If you are suggesting that you NEVER had a single horse that bled after a work or race, you have a scoop!!You could NOT have scoped after every work/race.

          • Bill O’Gorman

            I didn’t say that. As you point out a very high % of all horses show some blood in the trachea after work – if you want to look for it. That is of no account in the majority of cases. I submit that most horses will only bleed to a greater extent if there is something wrong with them. The best thing to do if there is something wrong is to stop for a time -“Seemples!” [See Compare The Market .com]

          • Bill O’Gorman

            Obviously nor have you

          • I have raced more than 600 horses in the last yearly 30 years and the number of chronic bleeders has been very small. When I had my horses trained and stabled at Fair Hill where the environment was controlled, we went more than 1 1/2 years without a single bleeding incident. I have owned 5 horses out of 600 that have bled through the nose once.

          • mikec

            Chronic??? Talking ANY bleeders. If so why do most of your horses run on Lasix, that POISON!!

          • Ben van den Brink

            If you like to stay in buisiness, do what the others are dooiing, giving five lenghts at 5 furlongs away does not make any sense don,t you think.

          • mikec

            No one knows what lasix means as far as moving up horses and not all of them move up. Had several that dulled out with lasix

          • Bill O’Gorman

            I agree with the tiny % theory.

        • Keyne

          Lasix is used to curb bleeding(wink,wink)…the fact that Lasix masks most methamphetamines is just “incidental”.lolololol.

          • Bill O’Gorman

            If it looks like a duck …..

        • Neigh Sayer

          Phipps is a racing elite. He is not objecting, and when Chairman of the Jockey Club he was for banning lasix.

          • If Mr. Phipps was truly in favor of banning Lasix, then I wish he would actually support a bill that does that very thing.

          • Neigh Sayer

            He is not a legislator. He has been very vocal about his support, including asking Congress to put forth a bill that would bring in the USADA. If you ask that this bill include banning lasix, it will never pass. First we have to get the USADA, then fight to ban lasix race day, and ban Clenbuterol, and ban Thyroxine, and test for Cobalt and all blood doping agents. First things first.

          • So what you are saying is that if Mr. Phipps does not support your bill it means he really does not want to get rid of Lasix or drugs in racing? Don’t you think you are being a little presumptuous?

          • Ben van den Brink

            It would be far better when people are expressing what their intended goal is, just uniform rules is not enough according my ethical responsibily towards the horse.

            Avoiding the question that is splitting the horse industry, is not helping the issue, nor the horse.

          • Bill O’Gorman

            Never mind ethical responsibility to the horse, what about ethical responsibility to oneself? Sending horses to widely suspected chemical enhancement specialists – on the basis that they themselves will feign shock and horror should there be a positive test – shows little moral fibre on the part of owners.

          • I’m saying the Tonko/Barr bill should ban all raceday medications and not leave it to the whim of a newly created alphabet group. It’s not presumptuous. Wouldn’t you also love to see the full weight of the Jockey Club behind a bill that expressly bans all raceday meds? The current version does not do that. I would think we’re on the same side in that regard. I have yet to hear any viable argument as to why THIA does not explicitly ban all raceday meds. Let’s put the ban in black and white and put USADA, not some THADA group, in charge of testing and enforcement.

    • HK

      DEATH – use your brain! They suffer. They die. And you want proof? The proof is EVERYWHERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Richard C

    The Beltway is obviously quite infamous for sniping and nothing getting done, as lobbyists keep their elected foot soldiers marching in circles. But every career politician better cast a hard look at northeast Ohio, where a reputed member of the Gambino crime family was just arrested on a variety of charges — which includes the drugging of race horses; a classic ploy of wise guys that appears to be alive and well….and not buried away in some old U.S. history books rotting away in musty corners of public libraries.

  • Lynn

    Best to be on the watch sound bites from governmental types. “The Afordable Care Act” (Obama Care ), this was sold with the promise to lower health insurance costs however it has raised them. Another great example is The Earned Income Tax Credit. In most cases if not cases there’s nothing earned at all, just a welfare check titled as an Earned Income Tax Credit.
    “Thoroughbred Racing Integrity Act”.
    Maybe more like let’s do away with most race tracks and most who own and train horses. Just Club (Jockey Club ) members only; Racing at Belmont & Saratoga for about 8 months a year, Gulfstream Park 3 months in the winter, Keeneland for 3 weeks & Churchill Downs 1 week in the spring and fall, and some racing for part of the year at Delmar & Santa Anita.

    • Quinnbt

      You nailed it.

  • Racing Fan

    Joe Pitts swung and missed with a bill that just makes no sense even if his motive was in the right place.

    • Jenny Samuels


  • Charles Smith

    You know, Sen. Udall and Rep. Pitts ripped the Tonko/Barr bill as being TOO SOFT.

    With this in mind, it’s just rich to see anyone, like a number of posters here, who think that blindly ripping the federal government for having the temerity to consider intervention in this matter will make the problem go away.

    Memo to all of you who channeled your inner Mitch Mc Connell and blamed Obama and the federal government for EVERYTHING-
    this problem was created and allowed to fester by horse racing stake holders, the feds are wading in now because racing wouldn’t clean up it’s own house.

    • togahombre

      former kentucky gov jones is not in favor of the feds getting involved(thoroughbred racing commentary), and i would believe, from first hand experiance he knows exactly what their capabilities and limitations are

      • Concerned Observer

        The same Gov. Jones that defended paying fees(secondary sales commissions) to agents who were being paid to advise horse purchasers? Called dual agency. Kind of thing a Gov.knows is illegal.

        Check out Paulick report 3-17-06
        Airdrie Stud owner Brereton C. Jones said he paid consulting fees and
        commissions of at least $130,000 after two Keeneland sales to trainer
        Bruce Headley, one of six defendants in a lawsuit filed by California
        winemaker Jess Jackson for fraudulent misrepresentation in the purchase
        of horses and horse farm property.Jones made the admission during a sworn deposition taken Feb. 24 in Lexington.

      • The Feds are already involved. They have been since 1978.

        • Bill O’Gorman

          Barry, as someone who has, presumably, got his trainers more or less on message, what do you think of dual responsibility? For instance what effect would that system have had upon the al Zarooni fiasco?

        • L.L. Kauffman

          I plan to race my 2YO w/o Salix etc. As a small-scale owner/breeder, I would welcome a level playing field. Do you think this bill will do that? How would you modify it? (I have not read the bill yet).

    • Ben van den Brink

      Just a resume; the industry is never ever gooiing to clean up it,s act.

      Unless enforced by a total independant outside force, not coming from the industry itself. Cleaning up will also means the state commissions and their negotiated contracts with testing labs. So one way or the other, racing and therefore the industry will face turmoil.

      • AngelaFromAbilene

        You’re right on all points. The industry has had ample time to clean up and we’ve not done a damn thing but pay lip service for decades.

      • Bill O’Gorman

        The first step is to put owners in the dock along with the trainer. No semi-respectable owner who has properly briefed a semi-respectable trainer – and if you like that trainer’s vet – should have anything to worry about. Fly-by-night owners and trainers may still take a chance: catch them and ban them, and suspend the horse for a year.

  • It is disappointing that the Tonko/Barr bill doesn’t ban raceday meds; adopts the status quo; fails to identify punishment; fails to address veterinarian malpractice; and creates a new alphabet group that is only one vote away from complete stagnation.

    • Ernest Vincent

      Thanks for the professional review of the legal language and setting it up and spelling it out for the general horse world to comprehend.

    • Mike Oliveto

      That just about sums it up…all in one sentence. Awesome commentary! Thank you.

    • Jenny Samuels

      You obviously haven’t read the bill.

      • With all due respect, m’am, you don’t seem to recognize the latent ambiguities with the bill, its blatant omissions, and its potential pitfalls because so much is left unsaid. As an attorney whose days are spent in court debating statutory interpretation and having worked with WHOA, the Jockey Club, and other “reformers” in an effort to make the bill better, I have read the bill and its prior versions countless times. It has many holes that cause me great concern.

        • Ben van den Brink

          The best is still, split the competion into two devisions.
          One group taking on as racing is conducted as known, and the others who wishing to compete clean.

          Otherwise every thing will stay the same, and racing will be killing itself.

          • Bill O’Gorman

            But Ben how to reconcile that most of the best horses at the moment, and all the most expensive yearlings going forward, will be in the anything goes league! [ if what we see on here is right – which it likely is]

          • Ben van den Brink

            It depends on the choices made by the owner, as he is the one that pays the bill. But in the end, horses that won races without the stuff will make more money than their counterparts which raced on the stuff. Pretty sure about.

            And I do experienced myself that severe bleeding ( trough the nostrils) is a most costly buisiness.
            Residual value= none.

          • Bill O’Gorman

            I don’t think that there is any real evidence of a genetic predisposition to bleeding – apart from the fact that at low level it appears to be endemic and of no consequence. High Time was an interesting example of a bad bleeder that made an excellent sire.

          • Ben van den Brink

            The offspring from an shirley heights out of an hail to reason mare that I leased for one yr was in the end five products. 4 racers 2 bad bleeders 2 without bleeding but with severe throat problems.

          • Bill O’Gorman

            Perhaps they bled because they couldn’t breathe. Perhaps they couldn’t breathe because they were sick. Who knows?

        • Peyton

          So are you saying the Udall bill does not have these shortfalls?

          • The Udall bill bans all raceday medications and puts USADA in charge of testing and enforcement, not a new group (THADA) which has a 5/11 composition of representatives from the industry. If USADA withdraws from the process, which the THIA bill allows, then those 5 members get to appoint other industry stakeholders to fill the rest of the board..and we’re back to square one with the industry regulating itself (and we all know how that has gone). Those are the major difference between the bills. On those issues I prefer the Udall bill. The Udall bill also requires that racetrack veterinarians meet the AVMA code of ethics, something that has not been adopted by the THIA. Nonetheless, I take issue with the Udall bill because it does not expressly preempt state racing commissions from testing and enforcement like the THIA, which should be critical since most state racing commissions are comprised of political appointees many which have little motivation for staunch enforcement. Moreover, I don’t like how either bill fails to really describe how they are going to be funded. There are just vague references to future agreements or discussions on that issue. Basically, there are things to like about both bills. Nonetheless, if we’re going to try adopt international standards, then banning all raceday medications would be priority # 1 in my book. I just wish the supporters of each bill would get together, put egos aside, and try to hash out a clean bill. Authorship should be irrelevant if the ultimate goal is the adoption of international standards for horse racing in the US.

          • Bill O’Gorman

            “All raceday medications” is not a very determined position. Certainly it would still fall far short of European rules. Presumably 11:55p.m. the day before would be ok – that would not fly over here.

          • Agreed. Raceday meds is just an easy expression, but we should definitely adopt international standards.

          • Bill O’Gorman

            Amanda the problem is that he whole debate is awash with easy expressions!

          • Ben van den Brink

            The last sentence is by far the chosen one.

    • Roger Anderson

      I work as a groom at Parx and I feel like there is a big difference in opinion between a lot people on this website and most trainers I know. I’m not saying either side is right, but we should think carefully before a bill is passed that I would say most trainers disagree with. I may be wrong with what my feel “on the ground” is about this but do you think most trainers want this legislation?

  • Patricia Diers

    So in essence, it is a “lame” bill.

  • John McEvoy

    When will they stop, these legislator grandstanders spewing comments about a subject they obviously little about?

  • Sampan

    I have many years of experience being directly involved in our sport and business with all aspects of racing, breeding and governing bodies.
    The proposal by Representatives Tonko and Barr, The Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015 and the creation of the Thoroughbred Horseracing Anti-Doping Authority (THADA) is in my opinion doable.
    I won’t comment why the Standardbred and Quarterhorse isn’t part of this proposal.
    Whereas the Thoroughbred industry has prioritized their plan and want to get it done.

  • Fred and Joan

    We very much enjoyed reading the link you provided! We appreciate the refresher course on the starting of young horses of which we have several. There were many useful ideas for working with/ starting young horses to saddle. Thank you for sharing.

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