Feds Seeking Racehorse Drug Regulation

As predicted by horsemen earlier this year, members of Congress are again preparing to introduce legislation that would regulate the use of medication in racehorses.

The Jockey Club, in a statement released May 1, said the new bill is called the "Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act." It would put the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which handles drug testing for the Olympics, in charge of the endeavor.

One of the sponsors is New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat who has pushed similar legislation in the past. Since the late 2000s, members of Congress have introduced equine drug-related bills only to have them never reach the floor for votes.

The New York Times reported the bill could be introduced the week of May 5.

In February Brian Fitzgerald, a lobbyist for the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said members of Congress were expected to introduce a bill this year.

"We believe they will try to raise the stakes by putting pressure on us (on the race-day medication issue) by opening up the Interstate Horseracing Act (IHA)," Fitzgerald said at the time.

Most industry organizations have publicly opposed any attempt to open the IHA, a 1978 law that authorizes simulcasts across state lines. Fitzgerald indicated the talk in Washington, D.C., is that the law could be used to create some sort of "national medication regulation organization."

The latest attempt at federal regulation comes at a time when horse racing never has been closer than achieving uniformity in drugs and penalties.

The Jockey Club in its statement said it believes the "overuse of medication endangers our equine and human athletes, threatens the integrity of our sport, and erodes consumer confidence in our game." The organization stopped short of an endorsement of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act because it hasn't seen the document.

"We appreciate Congress' continued interest in helping to safeguard the sport of horse racing, in particular with the recent news accounts of the proposed (legislation)," The Jockey Club said. "In anticipation of its release, we will review it and provide our comments to its authors.

"In the meantime, The Jockey Club is encouraged by the substantial progress being made in the area of medication reform, including the efforts of Mid-Atlantic regulators and the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association to more tightly control the use of therapeutic medications; the commitment by members of the industry, led by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, to develop new model rules with more stringent penalties for repeat violators; and the eight equine drug-testing laboratories, representing 24 pari-mutuel racing jurisdictions, that are currently undergoing accreditation reviews. Uniform accreditation will ensure more stringent and uniform standards for forensic drug testing.

"We recognize that there are a variety of available avenues for effecting the needed changes, whether through state action, a federal compact, federal law, or horseracing industry action, and we will continue to steadfastly support the enhancement of the safety of our athletes and the integrity of competition."

Originally published on BloodHorse.com.

About the Author

Tom LaMarra

Tom LaMarra, a native of New Jersey and graduate of Rutgers University, has been news editor at The Blood-Horse since 1998. After graduation he worked at newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as an editor and reporter with a focus on municipal government and politics. He also worked at Daily Racing Form and Thoroughbred Times before joining The Blood-Horse. LaMarra, who has lived in Lexington since 1994, has won various writing awards and was recognized with the Old Hilltop Award for outstanding coverage of the horse racing industry. He likes to spend some of his spare time handicapping races.

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