Lawmakers schedule US House vote on racing reform bill

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The proposed legislation includes a ban on race-day doping, and the establishment of a uniform national standard for rules and regulations for US horseracing that would be overseen by the US Anti-Doping Agency.
File image. Photo by Sheri Hooley on Unsplash

Leaders in the US House of Representatives have scheduled a vote on a horse-racing bill that will tackle drug use within the sport.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act was passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in an overwhelming 46 to 5 earlier in the month.

The bill mirrors legislation introduced to the Senate.

The proposed legislation includes a ban on race-day doping, and the establishment of a uniform national standard for rules and regulations for US horseracing that would be overseen by the US Anti-Doping Agency.

It backers are hailing it as landmark legislation that would directly address the safety and welfare of racehorses and the integrity of the sport itself through better anti-doping measures and racetrack safety standards.

“This anti-doping legislation will modernize horseracing in the US, put the welfare of the horses at the center of the enterprise, and hold the industry to a higher standard that mirrors the rest of the world,” the executive director of Animal Wellness Action, Marty Irby, said.

“We applaud the House Energy and Commerce Committee and House leaders for saddling up and charging ahead with a vote to put American horseracing on the right track.”

Drug use within the American horse racing industry has been the subject of Congressional attention over the past five years.

The bill has the support of several key bodies within the horse racing industry, including all three Triple Crown racetracks. Churchill Downs, which runs the Kentucky Derby, is the most recent corporation to get on board.

The bill also has the support of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity (CHRI), which includes The Jockey Club, the Breeders Cup, Keeneland Racecourse and the Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association.

The fractured nature of anti-doping and track safety efforts across the country’s 38 racing jurisdictions have long been the subject of criticism. They are factors which reform advocates believe have undermined the public’s confidence in horseracing, threatened the integrity of competition, and endangered the human and equine athletes.

They believe the reforms will address these problems, while also helsping to enhance the public’s interest in the industry.

As well as tackling doping issues, the proposed legislation will 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 racetracks and non-racetrack facilities related to safety violations.

The push for the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is led in the House by US Representatives Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Andy Barr, R-Ky. The mirror legislation was introduced by US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Martha McSally, R-Ariz., and Diane Feinstein, D-Calif.

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