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