The end of doping is within sight in American Thoroughbred racing, a leading animal advocate believes, as lawmakers move to progress a bill that would clamp down on violations within the industry.
The US House Committee on Energy and Commerce has officially scheduled a markup hearing for the Horseracing Integrity Act, led by US representatives Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Andy Barr, R-Ky., for this Wednesday.
The markup announcement, which is expected to result in the committee amending and approving the bill, allowing it to be taken up on the House floor, comes on the heels of an announcement last week from US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that he will introduce compromise legislation.
McConnell’s bill, expected to be introduced this week, and named the Horseracing Safety and Integrity Act, would replicate many of the key provisions within the bill before the house, including a ban on race-day doping and the establishment of a uniform national standard for rules and regulations. Drug enforcement would be overseen by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
The advocacy group Animal Wellness Action says it endorses both the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) and the Horseracing Integrity Act (HIA).
It is urging the committee to take action tomorrow to progress the bill.
The use of drugs in American racehorses has been a controversial issue over the past five years.
“The end of doping in Thoroughbred racing is within sight, and it’s exciting to see so many animal protection groups and horseracing industry organizations unite behind this effort,” said Marty Irby, a lifelong horseman and executive director at Animal Wellness Action.
Irby testified in support of the Horseracing Integrity Act at a hearing in January.
“There’s no more important aspect of American horseracing than putting the welfare of the horse at the center of this enterprise, and this legislation does just that.”
The legislative effort is now supported by all three Triple Crown racetracks, as Churchill Downs has endorsed the effort for the first time.
The effort continues to enjoy the support of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, which includes the Jockey Club, the Breeders Cup, Keeneland Racecourse, the Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association, the Water Hay Oats Alliance, and animal welfare groups such as Animal Wellness Action.
Louis Romanet, chairman of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) has also welcomed the introduction of the bill. He said that ensuring the public’s confidence in horse racing has never been more important.
“The IFHA’s key mission is to promote the health and welfare of horses and riders, and to promulgate best practice. The key to both of these core policies is strong anti-doping policy and I am confident that The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act achieves this objective,” he said.
“The United States has always played an integral role in the global sport of horse racing and this legislation brings American racing considerably further in-line with internationally accepted best regulatory policy. It will also serve as the bedrock for the US to remain a leader in safety matters, and ensure the economic viability of its product both domestically and abroad.”
The fractured nature of anti-doping and track safety efforts across the country’s 38 racing jurisdictions has undermined the public’s confidence in horseracing, threatened the integrity of competition, and, in the view of advocacy groups, endangered the human and equine athletes.
They believe the bills currently being promoted will address these problems, while also helping to enhance the public’s interest in the industry.
The proposed legislation will also create a racetrack safety program, consisting of a uniform set of training and racing safety standards and protocols. Those standards include racetrack design and maintenance, oversight of human and equine injury reporting and prevention, and the procedures for undertaking investigations at racetrack and non-racetrack facilities related to safety violations.