The Horseracing Integrity Act, H.R. 2651, will better protect our nation’s racehorses by replacing outdated state-by-state drug and medication rules, banning race-day medication, and putting the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in charge of a program to set one national uniform set of rules on medication use in horse racing (USADA is a non-profit organization that runs anti-doping programs for U.S. sports, including the U.S. Olympics and the Pan American Games).
The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund have championed such reforms for many years now, and today I joined leaders within the racing industry to speak out at a key hearing in the U.S. House in support of this bill.
I told members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection that while many professional sports have taken crucial steps to eliminate illegal drugging, the racing industry continues to lag behind. Not because of a lack of leadership, but because too many players want to maintain the status quo — a structure of state-by state-regulation that lacks a universal standard – that allows them to circumvent regulatory oversight.
“Without reform, including the passage of the Horseracing Integrity Act, horses and jockeys will continue to be at risk, and fans will increasingly support other clean sports where champions are determined based on athletic prowess, not a syringe loaded with performance enhancing drugs,” I said in my testimony.
Two weeks ago, the racing industry celebrated its latest Triple Crown winner, and it’s now enjoying the increased enthusiasm a new superstar brings to the sport. But all of that enthusiasm and support will be difficult to sustain if the industry fails to consider the welfare of the equine athletes at the heart of this sport.
The lead co-sponsors of the Horse Racing Integrity Act, Reps. Andy Barr, R-KY, and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., understand this. Both represent districts located in states that host the first and final legs of the Triple Crown. The bill enjoys the support of some 126 U.S. representatives, too.
The bill also has the backing of our affiliate, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, with 9,200 members, including 5,000 veterinarians, around the country.
It also enjoys support within the racing industry, and championing the necessity for change at today’s hearing were Stuart S. Janney III, chairman of The Jockey Club, and Craig Fravel, President and CEO of the Breeders’ Cup. The Jockey Club, the Breeders’ Cup, and the Humane Society of the United States are all members of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity. The participation of these racing industry leaders at today’s hearing lends credibility to this cause, and demonstrates that the stakes are highest not only for the owners, the trainers, the spectators, or the economy, but also for the athletes themselves.
As Janney stated in his testimony: “Our sport needs an independent organization, free of conflicts of interest, to apply uniform rules, stringent out-of-competition testing, tough penalties, and effective enforcement, which will ensure clean competition and improvements in racing safety. “
“The challenges are modern and particularly in the world of medication both legal and illegal,” Favel said in his testimony. “There has been progress but for the most part we remain a locally governed sport with different regulatory and enforcement capabilities.”
It is crucial that we get the Horseracing Integrity Act passed this year, but to do so everyone who cares about these equine athletes needs to speak out for them. Not just for the winners but also for those who don’t make it to the top and often meet an undeserved end in a slaughterhouse. Please contact your representatives in Congress and ask them to cosponsor the Horseracing Integrity Act, H.R. 2651. Let’s make sure these beautiful animals who have played crucial roles throughout our country’s history are treated with the respect and compassion they deserve.