Proposed Bill Calls for Federal Anti-Doping Racing Rules

Proposed Bill Calls for Federal Anti-Doping Racing Rules

Administering race-day medications to racehorses would be banned a under proposed bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Administering race-day medications to racehorses would be banned a under proposed bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week. The legislation would also put an independent anti-doping agency in charge of enforcing rules and penalties for violators.

Sponsored by U.S. Representatives Joe Pitts (R-PA), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act would ban race-day medications and allow the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to develop rules identifying permitted and forbidden substances. It would also charge the USADA—the national organization which manages the U.S. Olympic Committee’s anti-doping program—with creating anti-doping education, research, testing, and adjudication programs for horse racing.

The bill would also set a medication policy framework for all races with interstate simulcast wagering, require stiff penalties—including a lifetime ban—for worst-case violators, and ensure drugs administered to racehorses comply with veterinary ethics.

“Before more people and animals are hurt, we need to put a responsible independent authority in charge of cleaning up racing,” Pitts said. “The American horse racing industry needs to align its standards with the international rules that prohibit drug use on race day.”

But while Clara Fenger, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, secretary of the North American Association of Racetrack Veterinarians, believes everyone involved in horse racing wants the industry to address the drug issue, she does not think Pitts' bill is the way to do it.

“We are all in agreement that we want to get this done, but we have to do it state-by-state because every jurisdiction is different and every state has different problems,” she said.

Fenger also believes this means allowing veterinarians to treat horses, including in some cases on race day.

“Everybody wants to ban anabolic steroids,” she said. “But when it comes to medication, if a horse has an allergy, for example, we want to be able to treat it.”

Finally, Fenger believes that tapping the USADA to establish and maintain horse racing rules is inappropriate: “(The USADA) has never done blood tests on horses; the FEI (Fédération Equestre Internationale) does drug tests on (horses),” Fenger said. “It's like comparing apples and oranges.”

The bill remains pending.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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