Tygart: Parallels between Olympics and Horse Racing

Tygart: Parallels between Olympics and Horse Racing

Tygart said that even if federal legislation is enacted, various stakeholders within the horse industry would still have the ultimate authority of how a drug enforcement plan is carried out.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

The CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency says there are parallels between issues facing the U.S. horse industry and the Olympics when it comes to ensuring the integrity of those sports, specifically with regard to oversight on medications.

Travis Tygart, CEO of United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), was in Lexington, Ky., April 14 to speak to a group of about 50 horse industry stakeholders brought together for an informational meeting organized by the Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA). Member of WHOA are seeking to stop race-day medication. Among those present for Tygart's presentation were a diverse group of equine industry professionals, including farm owners, breeders, owners, stable managers, equine insurance professionals, regulators, and trainers.

The USADA has been designated in legislation introduced in Congress with responsibility of having oversight on drug issues. The bill is "The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act" (HR 2012/S 973). The USADA, a private, nonprofit company, is most notably known for its work in compiling the report on the doping activities of cyclist Lance Armstrong and his teammates in its role as the anti-doping organization for Olympic sports.

Tygart said his company agreed when asked by Congress to be included for consideration as the drug oversight body for any federal legislation regulating horse racing.

"We got asked by Congress, at no initiation by us, if we were willing to be named in a piece of federal legislation," said Tygart, whose company receives some federal funding as a result of its role within the Olympics drug oversight role. "We said we are in the business of protecting sport; horse racing doesn't fall under our mission but we believe all sport should be safe, clean and held to a standard that is fairly and evenly enforced. So we said, 'Congress, if you are asking us to do this, we will consider it as we move forward.' "

Tygart said that in USADA's limited experience looking into medication and integrity issues facing horse racing, it has become abundantly clear that the many rules and regulations spread across 38 different state racing jurisdictions and the vested interests of so many groups involved in the horse industry are not unlike those faced by the International Olympic Committee and U.S. Olympic Committee in the 1990s.

"It was a myriad of rules and regulations across the Olympic games," Tygart said, noting that more than 48 sports from over 150 countries were involved. "We are not here to be the experts, but we can see parallels between the Olympics and horse racing."

While the proposed federal legislation has not advanced, Tygart said horse racing does not necessarily need congressional action to get a drug enforcement system. He noted that there is no federal law that mandates the Olympics' drug testing mechanism.

"It goes without saying that at the end of day, the tenets of fairness, health, clean competition are the ultimate goal," Tygart said. "I have yet to hear or see any reason your industry or any other industry or sport that wants to protect its integrity can't go through and have success having a similar process. There is federal legislation out there (for the horse industry). It didn't take federal legislation in the Olympic movement around the world.

"The USADA is not here to say it must be federal legislation ... we are here to say there is a model here that can help and be done much better than is being done."

Tygart said that even if the federal legislation is enacted, the various stakeholders within the horse industry would still have the ultimate authority of how a drug enforcement plan is carried out.

"If there is a third party that comes, what has to happen is a consultant period and stakeholders ought to have input—standing committees of stakeholders—that provide guidance and consultation," Tygart said. "Everyone in the industry should be given a voice in that process. And then whatever comes out and is approved by the higher board overseeing the sport, that is the criteria."

Whether through the USADA or some other body, Tygart said the most important elements of an effective drug oversight mechanism are not just the policies that are adopted but how those policies are enforced. He cited the example of how Russia had a set of policies for Olympians but was not following through on the implementation and enforcement.

"There are really two questions: How good or not good is the policy. And once you have uniform policies, then the question is whether the implementation of those policies is uniform or not," Tygart said.

Tygart said developing tests to detect new drugs that might have made their way into any sport is key to staying ahead of those trying to get around the rules, but noted that an inordinate amount of new tests to be implemented could be counterproductive. He said a balance is needed between the desire to perfect new tests and getting them into the field and into effect.

Originally published on BloodHorse.com.

About the Author

Ron Mitchell/The Horse

Ron Mitchell is Online Managing Editor for The Blood-Horse magazine. A Lexington native, Mitchell joined The Blood-Horse after serving in editorial capacities with The Thoroughbred Record and Thoroughbred Times, specializing in business and auction aspects of the industry, and was editor-in-chief of the award-winning Horsemen’s Journal. As online managing editor, Mitchell works closely with The Blood-Horse news editor and other departments to make sure the website content is the most thorough and accurate source for all Thoroughbred news, results, videos, and data.

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