A lack of national oversight and the quest to win by any means has brought the American horse racing industry to the brink of crisis. The spike of horse deaths on U.S. racetracks has created a scrutinizing spotlight on the industry — and rightly so. The whole world has watched in horror as horses have broken down and died from heart attacks and broken bones as they run towards the finish line.
According to the Jockey Club's Equine Injury Database, nearly 10 horses a week on average died at American racetracks in 2018. That figure is anywhere from two and a half to five times greater than the fatality rate in Europe, Japan, and Australia where rules against performance-enhancing drugs are enforced more stringently.
DOPING PLAGUES THE INDUSTRY
From past scandals involving steroids, dermorphin and cobalt, to the most recent incidents involving the use of bisphosphonates, U.S. horse racing has battled cheaters and abusers for decades. If caught, violators often get away with just a slap on the wrist and move on to the next designer drug. With no national oversight, the industry lags behind.
LACK OF UNIFORMITY
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, H.R.1754/S.4547, will recognize a newly formed Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA), which will be tasked with creating national standards regarding prohibited and permitted substances for use in horses, setting up an accreditation system for labs to test drug samples, and developing regional standards regarding racetrack safety.
The program will be enforced by USADA, the body responsible for anti-doping programs for human athletes, including the U.S. Olympic teams. The new set of rules, testing procedures and penalties would replace the current makeshift regulatory system that governs horse racing's 38 jurisdictions.
Self-regulating at the state level has failed the horses and the horse racing industry itself. It's imperative that the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is enacted into law for real reform to occur. The path forward is clear:
VICTORY! A NEW ERA IN U.S. RACING
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (H.R.1754/S.4547) was signed into federal law on December 27, 2020.
The next steps in implementing the law include establishing the rules that will govern issues including; anti-doping, racetrack safety, and riding crop policies. All rules must be approved by the FTC, which require a period of public comment. The legislation will take full effect on July 1, 2022.
To keep updated on the latest developments, visit the HISA website.