Horse Racing Integrity Coalition Formed

The Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity will advocate for uniform medication standards for American Thoroughbred racing.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

A group of horse racing and animal welfare organizations have announced the launch of a coalition to support uniform medication standards for Thoroughbred racing and the formal introduction of proposed bipartisan legislation that would grant independent authority over rule-making, testing and enforcement oversight to an entity created by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

The groups will work with Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY), who in late May announced plans to introduce the Thoroughbred Horse Racing Anti-Doping Act of 2015 to establish uniform standards for drugs and medication in the American Thoroughbred industry, and other lawmakers to file common-sense legislation to bring long-needed reforms to horse racing.

The Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity is comprised of two major Thoroughbred racing organizations (Breeders' Cup Ltd. and The Jockey Club) and an animal welfare group (The Humane Society of the United States, or HSUS), and has grassroots support from the more than 1,000 members of the Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA).

The USADA administers the anti-doping programs—including education, sample collection, results management, and drug reference resources—for athletes in U.S. Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American ,and Parapan American Sport, including all Olympic sport national governing bodies, their athletes and events throughout the year.

"It is USADA's hope that the model of independence and national harmonization envisioned through this legislation can be realized for the long term good of this sport," said USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart. "As we have done with other sports, USADA would be focused on creating a robust program that can protect the rights of competitors and the integrity of competition."

Arthur Hancock III, WHOA co-founder, added, "In a sport built on the integrity of competition, nothing is more important than a level playing field for the horses, jockeys, trainers, owners that compete, and for the fans who wager on our sport. The creation of this coalition now provides all interested parties with a unique opportunity to support a single, national approach to medication, drug testing and penalties with strong, independent oversight and enforcement."

Said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and chief executive officer, "It is time for key stakeholders to come together and find solutions to protect equine athletes on the track and to turn around the problem of widespread doping of horses to enhance performance and to get injured horses into the starting gate."

Among the provisions in Tonko’s proposed legislation, the USADA would create the Thoroughbred Horseracing Anti-Doping Organization (THADO), an independent, non-governmental nonprofit governed by a board comprised of six USADA board members and five independent individuals from the Thoroughbred racing industry. This organization would work collaboratively with state racing commissions and their respective staff members throughout the country.

Then, THADO would develop and administer a nationwide anti-doping program that would go into effect beginning Jan. 1, 2017, following input from the Thoroughbred industry and the public.

The horse racing industry has been working to advance better rules pertaining to drugs, drug testing and penalties through the National Uniform Medication Program on a state-by-state basis.

"The racing industry has taken thoughtful and significant steps toward medication reform in recent years and we believe that the creation of this coalition demonstrates widespread support for further changes, changes that can be made in a more timely fashion," said James L. Gagliano, The Jockey Club’s president and chief operating officer. "We deeply appreciate Congressmen Tonko's willingness to help us bring about reform."

The coalition also credited the efforts of Congressmen Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), who have been on the forefront of efforts to reform the current medication system.

"Without the leadership of Congressman Whitfield, Congressman Pitts, and Senator Udall, the industry may not have taken this problem head on," said Gagliano. "This new coalition wants to bring all lawmakers interested in racing reform together and find a common solution that will further ensure the safety of our athletes and the integrity of our sport for our participants and our fans."

Craig Fravel, president and chief executive officer of Breeders' Cup Ltd., added, "The current system of state-by-state regulation of medication across 38 states has inherent inefficiencies and a newer, modern, and efficient approach is vital to the growth of our sport. We are pleased to partner in support of this legislation and we look forward to adding more coalition members in the weeks and months to come."

Millions of people participate annually in American Thoroughbred racing as owners, trainers, veterinarians, and industry support professionals, and as fans and bettors. The industry contributes $25 billion to the U.S. economy annually and generates 380,000 domestic jobs, with 38 states participating in pari-mutuel racing and American Thoroughbreds traveling and racing overseas in Europe and on growing racing circuits in Asia and the Middle East.

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