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
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."
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.
MONTH / yEAR