Today, September 29, 2020, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (H.R.1754) was unanimously passed the U.S. House of Representatives. Led by Congressman Andy Barr (D-KY) and Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY), this landmark legislation will create an independent regulatory authority responsible for establishing uniform safety and competition standards for horse racing. The bill now heads to the U.S. Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senators Feinstein (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY) and McSally (R-AZ), are leading the effort for its passage.
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, H.R.1754/S.4547, will recognize the newly formed Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA), which will be tasked with creating uniform, 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.
“With today’s HISA passage in the House, we continue our momentum and move one step closer toward historic reform for the horse racing industry,” said Congressman Barr. “This legislation, developed through a highly deliberative and bipartisan process, will ensure the safety of our equine athletes and increase the popularity, public confidence, and international competitiveness of the sport."
“After nearly six years working to advance this bipartisan legislation to modernize horseracing in the United States, we are at long last rounding the final turn,” Congressman Tonko said. “Our Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act puts the health and well-being of our equine athletes and jockeys firmly at the center of the sport, and delivers commonsense medication and track safety standards that will lift this noble sport to higher standards of integrity and safety."
93% Want Congressional Action on a National Anti-Doping & Safety Program
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Concern about racehorse safety and equine drug and safety issues among the public is sky high according to a new survey by Xenophon Analytics in Washington, D.C. The survey was conducted by polling a national database of people aware or interested in horse racing and issues impacting the industry.
In the survey, 78% of people were aware of the 2019 spike in equine fatalities, 61% were very aware of controversy over the use of medications in the horse racing industry with 83% believing that the problem was widespread and systematic.
It should receive widespread support considering that poll respondents supported a national system of equine medication control over the present system of separate state regulations by 95% to 5%.
The poll also showed strong support (94%) for racetrack safety programs, including the adoption of a national racetrack safety standards program and race-day and out-of-competition drug testing (93%).
“Sixty-nine percent of the people surveyed had a negative perception of the horse racing industry,” continued Fuscus. “But 67% also stated that their view would be improved by industrywide reforms related to anti-doping and equine safety.”
Xenophon Analytics’ Horse Racing Survey was taken nationally with a size of 3,116 respondents. The survey was conducted from Aug. 20, 2020, through Aug. 25, 2020, and has a margin of error of +/- 2%. The poll and data can be viewed on Xenophon’s website.
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (H.R.1754/S.4547) comes after the racing industry has been hit by a series of doping scandals and a rash of fatal breakdowns in recent years.
The Energy and Commerce committee in the U.S. House on gave bipartisan approval to legislation to create national standards for the horse racing industry to prevent fatalities and discourage illegal medication practices. The Senate's top Republican said he would press to pass the bill before the year is out. The 46-5 vote in a Democratic-controlled panel is a good sign for the bill's prospects.
“Our bill delivers commonsense medication and track safety standards that protect America’s horses and jockeys, needed progress that will put this popular and historic sport on track for a strong recovery and a bright future," said top sponsor Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., whose district is home to Saratoga Race Course, a premier racetrack.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whose state is home to the country's top breeding outfits and the Kentucky Derby, introduced identical legislation with senior Democrats from California and New York, which also have top racetracks and breeding operations.
The “Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act" comes after the racing industry has been hit by a series of doping scandals and a rash of fatal breakdowns in recent years. It is also struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic, with tracks like Churchill Downs holding races — including last weekend's Kentucky Derby, delayed from May — without spectators.
Several top trainers were charged earlier this year with illegally doping their horses with performance-enhancing drugs, including Jason Servis, whose horse Maximum Security finished first in the 2019 Derby but was disqualified for racing interference.
The legislation is aimed at empowering an independent Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority with federal recognition and enforcement power to set uniform standards for medication, track safety, and testing of horses for PEDs.
“Unfortunately, the coronavirus isn’t thoroughbred racing’s only challenge. In recent years, tragedies on the track, medication scandals and an inconsistent patchwork of regulations have cast clouds over the future,” McConnell said in a floor speech.
While blue-blood racing organizations such as the Jockey Club and key racing circuits support the idea, McConnell has not attracted cosponsors from states like Florida, Louisiana and New Jersey, where some of the sport's scandals have occurred and where oversight is considered uneven at best. But Frank Pallone, D-N.J., chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce panel, is a strong supporter.
McConnell said in a brief hallway interview that the industry has long been plagued by disunity and that after reading a Washington Post editorial questioning whether racing should remain legal he told stakeholders “in the strongest possible way that they needed to get together or I would try to do it for them. And they did get together.” McConnell said he hopes to win passage of the legislation before the end of the congressional session and plans to discuss the topic with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Also at issue is a series of horse fatalities in California in recent years, which has garnered the industry bad press. The legislation faces challenges in the Senate, given the time crunch and potential opposition. But McConnell said he would press the issue in a post-election lame duck session.
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