Source: Washington Post Opinion by Bob Baffert Baffert trained Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify. Horses he has trained since 1992 have won five Kentucky Derbies, seven Preakness Stakes, three Belmont Stakes, 15 Breeders’ Cup races and three Dubai World Cups.
The horse-racing world was stunned this week by the arrest of 27 people on federal horse-doping charges. The indictments describe a “widespread, corrupt" scheme to give racehorses performance-enhancing and other banned drugs that can mask preexisting injuries and directly lead to horse injuries and death.
Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our equine and human athletes, and nothing impacts their health and safety more than the policies and procedures concerning drugs. These indictments show that the current system of 38 state racing jurisdictions, each with its own regulatory body, laws and regulations, is entirely inadequate.
Horse racing is experiencing the most profound crisis in the long history of the sport. To emerge stronger, we must act decisively to protect the horses who are the stars of the show; nothing else will restore the confidence of fans, gamblers and the general public. And that means federal action.
Our horses and jockeys deserve an unbiased, independent national anti-doping authority. Fortunately, the Horseracing Integrity Act (HIA) is moving through Congress.
Horse racing is more international than ever, so it’s important that our national policies align with globally accepted international standards and rules. Fortunately, the HIA provides that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) would play a key role in this national governing body. The USADA is universally recognized as having world-class drug knowledge and anti-doping expertise, and it governs anti-doping programs for the U.S. Olympic team and others. The agency is independent, unbiased and would have no agenda other than the best interests of our athletes and our sport. Its oversight would ensure that we have the best possible rules, testing protocols and effective penalties. This in turn would ensure that horses would receive medications only when the therapeutic benefits would clearly outweigh any negative or health-threatening effects, and that the cheaters would be quickly caught and punished.
The HIA was introduced in the House by Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and has strong bipartisan support, with 244 co-sponsors. Companion legislation was introduced into the Senate by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and has 24 co-sponsors. The bill is moving, but Congress needs to speed up the pace.
In the past, there has been disagreement about whether a federally sponsored anti-doping body was necessary, and I understand the reluctance of many in the industry to invite Washington onto the track. However, these federal indictments clearly show that a patchwork of 38 separate regulatory bodies doesn’t work and that the losers are horses and all those who love this grand sport.
It is time for the horse-racing industry to unite in support of a national anti-doping regulatory system. I invite all of my colleagues to join me in clearly asking Congress to pass the Horseracing Integrity Act.
Udall Pushes for Anti-Doping Rules for U.S. Horseracing in U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Reauthorization Bill
Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), member of the Senate Commerce Committee, called again for Congress to act to ban doping in U.S. horse racing and secured passage of a related amendment during the Commerce Committee’s markup of legislation to reauthorize the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the independent, national anti-doping organization for the U.S. Olympic teams.
In the same week that U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman brought federal indictments filed against 27 defendants in the Southern District of New York for “the most far-reaching prosecution of racehorse doping in the history of the Department of Justice,” the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously accepted Udall’s amendment to require USADA to report to Congress within 180 days about its capabilities to implement a horseracing anti-doping program and to make recommendations to Congress about how a successful program would be designed.
“My bill would empower USADA to act as the anti-doping organization for all horseracing. USADA would develop the anti-doping framework, education, testing, and adjudication programs. Penalties would include a “one and done” lifetime ban for most severe cases.”
This week, 11 trainers, seven veterinarians and nine drug suppliers and distributors were charged in an international racehorse doping scheme. The continued chronic abuse of performance-enhancing drugs in horseracing is commonplace and undermines the safety and viability of the sport. Drugged up with painkillers and performance-enhancing substances, racehorses can be pushed beyond their limits, leading to break downs with potentially fatal consequences for horses and jockeys.
USADA CEO Travis Tygart issued a statement on March 9, 2020 following the release of the federal indictments, saying “[w]ith the horse racing industry at a crossroads, the right thing to do is to remove the fox from guarding the henhouse and ensure there is an independent anti-doping body in place to protect the integrity of the sport and the safety of the horses.”
Udall’s amendments included: