The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) CEO Travis Tygart expressed excitement this week at the prospect of his agency taking over drug testing and enforcement for racing across the country as part of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act that is making its way through Congress.
Tygart said the sport will benefit from the standardization of rules and testing that USADA will bring to the table. “The value in sport is that no one knows the outcome, and you can watch it and have the value of uncertainty,” Tygart told HRN. “And it’s based on skill and talent, not covert drugs that are being used to win.” While much of the racing world has responded positively to the prospect of change in a sport that has long struggled with alleged drug cheats, finding a standard set of procedures to benefit all parties has proven difficult.
Some groups have publicly opposed the bill, including the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and some harness-racing organizations. But Tygart said they have not disputed the need for uniform processes and that the USADA has spoken to the HBPA. When the bill was first announced, the NHBPA made it clear they felt excluded from the process and opposed some elements of the bill, including a Lasix ban.
Tygart said horsemen he has talked to have expressed nearly unanimous support for USADA’s takeover of testing and enforcement, including some who have reached out anonymously or covertly. “You need good rules, good independent input and robust implementation,” Tygart said. “That’s when you actually have a chance. We believe, and I think we’ve showed it with out athletes, you can be successful turning the tide and allowing clean athletes to fulfill their obligation to compete clean.”
Founded in 2000, the USADA administers drug testing and enforcement for organizations that include the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. As for the enforcement itself, Tygart said USADA will be the “best friend” of those who follow the drug rules and adapt to the guidelines, which will be standardized across most states. But he acknowledged that some will get caught up in enforcement very quickly.
“What you hope is a fair opportunity for people to change their behavior,” Tygart said. “Whether UFC or our Olympic program, no one wants to send lambs to the slaughter and not be a fair and ample opportunity to change behavior, adapt to the new rules. “That said, if people don’t, consequences will be what the rules establish. And I do think that there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit in the sense that having uniform laboratory standards is something that’s so basic and simple.”
Tygart also touched on some of the complications for testing horses as opposed to the human athletes USADA normally polices. The NHBPA had expressed concern over USADA's lack of experience with horses. Tygart said the group anticipates some issues but, overall, a smooth transition. “Frankly, collecting from a horse that’s trained by whistle to pee is sometimes easier than waiting for a marathoner that just finished and is dehydrated,” Tygart said.
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (S.4547) is making its way through the Senate, where it has bipartisan support. The House version already has passed, and the Senate version is awaiting action by the Commerce Committee.
Source: Horseracing Nation
American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Board Votes to Support the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act
On the recommendation of its Racing Committee, the American Association of Equine Practitioners board of directors voted this week to support the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (H.R.1754/S.4547). The legislation’s chief goal is to create uniform safety and medication standards in all U.S. racing jurisdictions. “Uniformity of rules is essential to protecting the safety of the racehorse and ensuring the integrity of the sport,” said AAEP President Dr. David Frisbie.
However, for the horse to be best served, the AAEP will continue to advocate for additional veterinary representation on the HISA board and committees beyond the single position currently designated for each. “In the previous version of the bill, the AAEP was a strong proponent for the governance structure to include individuals with the requisite expertise needed to capably address anti-doping and therapeutic medication regulation,” said Dr. Jeff Berk, AAEP immediate past president and Racing Committee chair. “The composition of the Authority Nominating Committee gives us confidence that the needed scientific expertise for these important positions will be considered, but we believe the breadth of knowledge needed to successfully protect equine athletes requires additional individuals.”
Position on Lasix:
Regarding the race-day administration of furosemide (Lasix), the AAEP’s position continues as one of support, as the medication remains the most efficacious treatment for exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH) in the horse. However, in 2019, a coalition of 20 racetracks, including hosts of Triple Crown races, along with numerous racing jurisdictions committed to restricting administration of furosemide on race day, independent of federal legislation .
“We are pleased to see in the revised legislation that the Authority will convene an advisory panel comprised of horse racing anti-doping and medication control experts to study race-day furosemide, including its impact on equine health and the integrity of competition,” added Dr. Scott Hay, AAEP president-elect and a racetrack practitioner. “Investigating effective management strategies for EIPH which do not require race-day medication administration has been a central goal of the AAEP’s Prescription for Racing Reform developed five years ago.”
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.
MONTH / yEAR