Doping and deaths tackled: New bill to reform US horse racing

Photo by Gene Devine on Unsplash

A bill to reform horse racing in the United States is to be introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in what has been described as a promising development for the future of an industry increasingly under a cloud because of the doping of horses and horse deaths.

The bi-partisan Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) will focus on the health of Thoroughbred racehorses and jockeys by requiring national, uniform safety standards that include anti-doping and medication control and racetrack safety programs. An independent, self-regulatory authority will be empowered to implement and manage new safety standards and programs.

An average of 8.5 horses die during races every week, according to The Jockey Club’s 2019 equine injury database, and that does not include fatalities during training.

The HISA immediately brought widespread support from across the Thoroughbred racing industry.

“Improving the health and safety of racehorses has long been the top priority of The Jockey Club,” said Stuart S. Janney III, chairman of The Jockey Club. “The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is vital to developing uniform and effective medication and safety regulations that will enhance the integrity and safety of American horse racing and improve the sport.”

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) will oversee the medication control program. USADA manages the anti-doping programs for America’s Olympic athletes. This is “a historic moment for Thoroughbred horse racing,” said USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart. “This game-changing, bi-partisan legislation will protect the health and safety of equine athletes and provide clean competitors a level playing field.”

Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity executive director Shawn Smeallie said the legislation would fulfill the CHRI’s mission by providing a national, uniform standard for drugs and medication in horse racing. “I look forward to working with the original co-sponsors of the bill – Sens. Gillibrand (D-NY) and McSally (R-AZ) and Reps. Barr (R-KY) and Tonko (D-NY) – as we push the more comprehensive legislation found in HISA.”

Humane Society of the United States president and CEO Kitty Block said the organisation’s Legislative Fund team had long championed federal legislation in Congress to reform horse racing. “We look forward to working with Sen. McConnell and other cosponsors to strengthen their bill, and we’ve offered him our recommendations.”

Block also said that the HISA would mandate common standards for all of the nation’s 38 racing jurisdictions. “Right now, state regulations on doping and track safety vary greatly, and this hodge-podge allows unscrupulous owners and trainers to move racehorses from one jurisdiction to another with fewer restrictions to continue doping horses and avoid penalties. Each state’s racing commission determines which drugs can be administered to racehorses and sets the penalties for those who violate these rules.”

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One thought on “Doping and deaths tackled: New bill to reform US horse racing

  • September 7, 2020 at 4:01 am

    I thought it was notable that during the TV coverage of the Kentucky Derby, on Saturday September 5th, 2020, they reported on the 2019 Derby, and detailed the first ever disqualification of a winning horse, for interference. They went on to mention how the Trainer of the eliminated horse, Maximum Security, was Jason Servis, who has been indicted on doping charges. So are other trainers as well as assisting Veterinarians, who obviously put money ahead of the health, welfare and safety of the horses. Higher standards and oversight have long been needed in the Race Horse industry. It is more than time.


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