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.”
Congress returns to Washington today to convene the second session of the 113th Congress, and it’s a good time to take stock of what was achieved in 2013 and the pathway for animals in the New Year. In terms of general lawmaking, the 113th Congress has been known for inaction and partisan gridlock. It passed fewer laws in its first year—65—than any single session on record. Yet despite the dysfunction in Washington, we’ve made real progress on key animal protection issues.
Horse Slaughter: The House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations bills include identical language barring the U.S. Department of Agriculture from funding inspections at horse slaughter plants, language added during committee markup in both chambers at the behest of Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and the late Bill Young, R-Fla., and Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The horse slaughter defund provision, requested for the first time by the agency itself in the president’s budget, would reinstate a prohibition that had been in place from 2007 to 2011.
It is urgently needed, as some companies are about to open horse slaughter plants in the U.S. It makes no sense for the federal government to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to oversee new horse slaughter plants at a time when Congress is so focused on fiscal responsibility.
The shocking discovery of horse meat in beef products in Europe underscores the potential threat to American health if horse slaughter plants open here. Moreover, horse slaughter is cruel and cannot be made humane, and the U.S. public overwhelmingly opposes it. Horses are shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water, or rest in crowded trucks in which the animals are often seriously injured or killed in transit. Horses are skittish by nature due to their heightened fight-or-flight response, and the methods used to slaughter them rarely result in quick, painless deaths; they often endure repeated blows during attempts to render them unconscious and sometimes remain alive and kicking during dismemberment.
The horse slaughter industry is a predatory, inhumane enterprise. They don’t “euthanize” old horses, but precisely the opposite: they buy up young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions, and kill them to sell the meat to Europe and Japan. We’re pressing to have the horse slaughter provision sustained in the omnibus bill that Congress plans to act on by January 15 to avoid another government shutdown, and ultimately seeking to pass the free-standing Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, S. 541/H.R. 1094, sponsored by Sens. Landrieu and Graham and Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., to provide a more lasting and comprehensive solution.
Horse Soring: The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act--H.R. 1518/S. 1406, championed by Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va.—has gained major momentum with the bipartisan support of almost 300 cosponsors in the House and Senate, and a successful hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This legislation boasts a lengthy list of endorsements, including the American Horse Council and 48 other national and state horse groups; the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, and veterinary medical associations in all 50 states; many animal protection groups; and others.
The PAST Act amends an existing federal law, the Horse Protection Act of 1970, to better rein in the cruel practice of “soring”—in which unscrupulous trainers hurt Tennessee Walking Horses and certain other breeds to make it painful for them to step down, so they will display an extreme high-stepping gait that wins prizes at horse shows. Soring methods include applying caustic chemicals, using plastic wrap and tight bandages to “cook” those chemicals deep into the horse’s flesh for days, attaching heavy chains to strike against the sore legs, inserting bolts, screws or other hard objects into sensitive areas of the hooves, attaching excessively “weighted” shoes, cutting the hooves down to expose the live tissue, and using salicylic acid or other painful substances to slough off scarred tissue in an attempt to disguise the sored areas.
More than 40 years ago, Congress tried to stop this abuse, but the Horse Protection Act is too weak, and rampant soring continues, according to a 2010 audit by the USDA Inspector General that recommended reforms incorporated in the PAST Act. This legislation is not expected to add costs to the federal government; it will simply enable USDA to redirect its enforcement efforts and resources in a more efficient and effective way. The only ones opposing this non-controversial legislation are those who are already breaking federal law, committing heinous cruelty, cheating to win unfair advantage at horse shows, and profiting from it. That subset of the show horse world doesn’t want Congress to alter the status quo. But many others in the show horse world are strongly advocating the PAST Act to deal with morally repugnant behavior that is giving their industry a major black eye, hurting attendance at shows, driving away corporate sponsors, and driving down horse sale prices.
Horse Racing: The House Energy and Commerce Committee also held a compelling hearing on the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2013, S. 973/H.R. 2012, led by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., and HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle testified in favor of the legislation.
A powerful New York Times exposé examined 150,000 horse races from 2009 to 2011, reporting that minimal oversight, inconsistent regulations, and rampant doping of horses has led to a stunning “average of 24 horse deaths on racetracks around the country every week.”
According to Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Racing Board, “It’s hard to justify how many horses we go through. In humans you never see someone snap their leg off running in the Olympics. But you see it in horse racing.” This is tragic for the horses and also often the jockeys, who can suffer serious injuries, paralysis, or death from being thrown. The legislation would ban doping of racehorses, and give the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, an independent body that has helped root out doping in other professional sports, the authority to oversee and enforce the new rules. Rather than having different rules with respect to medicating of horses in every state where tracks operate, there would be a consistent national policy.
Other Pending Horse Protection Efforts Include:
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