On Dec. 18, a majority of the U.S. House of Representatives have been confirmed as co-sponsors of the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019 (HIA), paving its way for committee consideration and then a vote by the full House of Representatives.
The legislation now has more than 218 co-sponsors, which is a majority of the 435 voting members of the House. The bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Andy Barr (R-KY).
“Bi-partisan support from over 218 members is a critical milestone because it demonstrates to House leadership that the bill will pass on the House floor,” said Shawn Smeallie, executive director of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity. “Clearly Congress recognizes that the current patchwork quilt of state regulations that govern the industry is failing and an effective anti-doping program with a national set of drug standards is needed to bring equine safety and integrity back to the sport.”
The bill is being considered by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection & Commerce and is supported by the chair and original co-sponsor, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). Other key members such as Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL), co-chairs of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, strongly support the bill. Following passage by the sub and full committees, the bill would advance to the House floor for a vote by the House of Representatives.
The HIA will create a private, independent horse racing anti-doping authority, the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority (HADA), responsible for developing and administering a nationwide anti-doping and medication control program for horse racing. The new authority will create a set of uniform anti-doping rules, including lists of permitted and prohibited substances and methods in line with international anti-doping standards and veterinarian ethical standards. The new nationwide rules would replace the current state-by-state regulatory mechanism that governs horse racing’s 38 separate racing jurisdictions.
The HIA was originally introduced by Congressmen Barr and Tonko in 2015 and was re-introduced by them in 2017 and 2019. The 2017 version contained numerous refinements that were the result of collaborations among the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, horseracing industry constituents, and other interested parties. The amended 2017 version of the bill, which is nearly identical to the current version, modified the 2015 version to ensure that there would be no effect on the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978, increase the number of HADA board members with horse racing-related expertise, feature standing technical advisory committees including active members from the racing industry, strengthen protections against retrospective enforcement of pre-HIA rules, provide the industry with a “safety valve” to affect alternative regulatory approaches, and include a ban on the use of medication on race days.
“Momentum is building to reform the horse racing industry and establish a meaningful and effective drug control program,” continued Smeallie. “This past year highlighted many of the challenges facing the horse racing industry, and the Horseracing Integrity Act will go a long way to improving the health of our equine athletes.”
HADA would be governed by a board composed of six individuals who have demonstrated expertise in a variety of horse racing areas, six individuals from the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), and USADA’s chief executive officer. USADA is recognized by Congress as the official anti-doping agency for U.S. Olympic, Pan American, and Paralympic sports.
A nearly identical companion bill has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Martha McSally (R-AZ) and currently has 17 co-sponsors. Passage of the House bill will help move the bill through the Senate.
The Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity represents a diverse group of 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. For more information and to read a copy of the proposed legislation, visit horseracingintegrity.com.