A Horse-First Bill: 2019 Horseracing Integrity Act

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U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), and Andy Barr (R-Ky.), congressmen representing Saratoga Springs and Lexington, respectively, introduced March 14 the Horseracing Integrity Act to create a uniform national standard for drug testing in racehorses that would be overseen by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

The Horseracing Integrity Act is backed by the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, a diverse group of 18 members that include racing organizations, racetracks, owner and breeder associations, and animal welfare groups that support adoption of a national, uniform standard for drug and medication rules in horse racing.

“This is a horse-first bill. This bill will help ensure a safer environment for horses and riders at all tracks,” said Shawn Smeallie, executive director of CHRI. “Representatives Tonko and Barr, along with their respective staff members, have worked tirelessly on this legislation. Thanks to their efforts, this initiative has gained the support of key stakeholders across the industry and continues to gain momentum. We look forward to working with other racing industry organizations to ensure productive legislative activity this year.”

H.R. 1754 is nearly identical to the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017 (H.R. 2651), also introduced by Reps. Barr and Tonko, which garnered the bipartisan support of more than 130 representatives last Congress. Joining the effort in 2019 are Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection & Commerce, and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL), co-chairs of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus. CHRI is hopeful and optimistic that the legislation will move through the committee process this year, building on this strong showing of support from key lawmakers.

“Horse racing thrives when we put the majestic equine athlete front and center,” Tonko said. “Our legislation creates a set of nationwide rules that are clear, consistent, and conflict-free. This will make horse racing safer for our equine athletes and jockeys while increasing confidence in the sport among the trainers, owners, horseplayers, and horse racing fans alike. This Sport of Kings has long supported good jobs and delivers billions of dollars in economic impact every year in my home state of New York and throughout the country. I am grateful to Congressman Barr for partnering with me on this common-sense legislation and look forward to advancing our measure through the House.”

“As the Representative for the Horse Capital of the World, I have the distinct honor of fighting for the future of this great American sport,” said Barr. “I continue to believe the prosperity of Kentucky’s signature horse racing industry depends on national uniform medication standards and testing procedures. I am proud to reintroduce this legislation with my friend and colleague, Congressman Tonko, and I look forward to building upon the great bipartisan work we secured last Congress, including more than 100 co-sponsors, to ensure the safety and integrity of this sport is preserved for years to come.”

Under existing law the American horse racing industry is regulated state-by-state, which has created inconsistent rules regarding medication use and enforcement across the 38 U.S. racing jurisdictions.

Key elements of the Horseracing Integrity Act are:

  • Establishes a conflict-free, self-regulatory organization responsible for creating and implementing an anti-doping program for the entire horse racing industry
  • standardized list of permitted and prohibited substances, treatments and methods for all covered races in the U.S.
  • Requires full and fair information disclosure to breeding stock purchasers and the wagering public
  • Bans the use of all medications within 24 hours of a race
  • Provides for the increased safety and welfare of horses, jockeys, and drivers

“The Jockey Club is grateful to Representatives Barr and Tonko for their strong support of the Horseracing Integrity Act,” said Jim Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club. “This legislation is vital for the health and safety of our athletes and the integrity of the sport of horse racing.”

The Water Hay Oats Alliance is a 1,700-member coalition of owners, breeders, trainers, and other horse racing industry leaders that was created in 2012.

“Doping destroys public confidence in racing, defrauds the betting fan, weakens the genetic pool and, most importantly, puts the life and limb of our equine athletes and their jockeys at risk,” stated WHOA in a March 14 release. “It is obvious that after years of committee review and discussion, America’s racing industry cannot police itself by eliminating the proliferation of performance-enhancing drugs in our sport, nor does it possess the power to adequately punish the purveyors of these drugs.

“The appointment of an independent anti-doping program run by USADA will resolve the problem of widespread drug use in American racing and put U.S. racing jurisdictions in step with international standards.”

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