Ahead of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ken., and Joe Pitts, R-Penn., revealed draft legislation they intend to introduce to end doping in horseracing and kick cheaters out of the sport.
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act would provide the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) with authority to cleanup the sport and enforce anti-doping standards in races with simulcast wagering.
USADA is a non-governmental organization that is designated as the official anti-doping agency for the U.S. Olympics and works with sports leagues to strengthen clean competition policies.
“The chronic abuse of race horses with painkillers and other drugs is dangerous and just plain wrong,” Udall said. “Racing groups have promised drug reform for decades, but this bill would bring in real standards and enforcement from an organization with a proven record for cleaning up sports.“
“This weekend, the very best of horseracing will be on display at the Kentucky Derby. Yet, for too long, the safety of jockeys and equine athletes has been neglected for the pursuit of racing profits,” Whitfield said. “The doping of injured horses and forcing them to compete is deplorable and must be stopped. Despite repeated promises from the racing industry to end this practice, meaningful action and oversight has yet to come forth. This legislation would bring much-needed reforms to an industry that supports thousands of jobs and is enjoyed by spectators nationwide.”
“Last year, I chaired a hearing that took a deep look into the problems of both legal and illegal drugs in horseracing,” Pitts said. “We heard testimony about how abuse of drugs is killing horses and imperiling riders. Before more people and animals are hurt, we need to put a responsible national authority in charge of cleaning up racing. This is a sensible, bipartisan measure to restore trust in racing and protect lives.”
Horseracing showcases the beauty of an iconic American animal. The industry also has a $10 billion annual economic impact and sustains about 380,000 jobs nationwide. Last year, more than $10.8 billion was wagered on American horseracing, including $133 million for the Kentucky Derby. However, as the New York Times reported in 2012, doping undermines the safety and viability of the sport, and 24 horses die each week from racing injuries.
Under the new legislation, USADA would develop rules for permitted and prohibited substances and create anti-doping education, research, testing and adjudication programs for horseracing. It would also:
Put an end to race day medication;
Set a harmonized medication policy framework for all races with interstate simulcast wagering;
Require stiff penalties for cheating, including “one and done” and “three strikes, you’re out” lifetime bans for the worst cases; and
Ensure racehorse drug administrations comply with veterinary ethics.
Last year, Udall, Whitfield and Pitts participated in Congressional hearings that explored medication and performance enhancing drug problems in horseracing.
In previous years, the lawmakers introduced similar legislation tasking the Federal Trade Commission to improve the sport. Their new approach, however, would enable USADA to act as the anti-doping body without amending the Interstate Horseracing Act or involving any federal agency or regulation. The legislation would not require any federal taxpayer funds.