UPDATE: Committee OKs thoroughbred racing reform legislation

UPDATE, POSTED 3:30 p.m. Sept. 9, 2020

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – As expected legislation designed to develop and unite the horse racing industry behind a uniform set of health and safety standards was approved by a U.S. House of Representatives committee Wednesday.

At the same time, corresponding measures was filed in the Senate ad the two bodies are working, for the first time, toward one goal.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act led by Congressman Andy Barr (KY-06) and Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) sailed through the House Energy and Commerce Committee markup. Tonko submitted an amendment to H.R. 1754, revising the bill to reflect industry consensus and legislation introduced Wednesday by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in the Senate.

“Today marks a major milestone in our bipartisan efforts to implement historic and lasting reforms for the horse racing industry,” said Barr. “Our amended legislation incorporates feedback from an expanded group of industry stakeholders to create essential uniform medication and track safety standards to protect the safety of our equine and human athletes. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act has momentum in the House, and I look forward to getting it across the finish line and sending it to the President’s desk.”

The full House could vote  the measure by the ed of the year.

ORIGINAL STORY POSTED 10 A.M. SEPT. 8, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WTVQ) – The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce has officially scheduled a markup hearing for H.R. 1754, the Horseracing Integrity Act, led by U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Andy Barr, R-Ky., for Wednesday.

The markup, which gives committee members the opportunity to present changes or amendments before it is sent to the full House for consideration, comes on the heels of an announcement last week from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that he will introduce compromise legislation.

McConnell’s bill, expected to be introduced this week, and named the Horseracing Safety and Integrity (HISA) Act, would replicate many of the key provisions within H.R. 1754, including a ban on race-day doping, the establishment of a uniform national standard for rules and regulations for thoroughbred horseracing in the U.S. that would be overseen by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

The doping of American racehorses has been a controversial issue over the past five years with horses dying on racetracks annually, and the indictment of 37 trainers and veterinarians in March 2020.

“The end of doping in Thoroughbred racing is within sight, and it’s exciting to see so many animal protection groups and horseracing industry organizations unite behind this effort,” said Marty Irby, a lifelong horseman and executive director at Animal Wellness Action who testified in support of H.R. 1754 at a hearing in January. “There’s no more important aspect of American horseracing than putting the welfare of the horse at the center of this enterprise, and this legislation does just that.”

The legislative effort is now supported by all three Triple Crown racetracks, as Churchill Downs has endorsed the effort for the first time. The effort continues to enjoy the support of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity (CHRI), which includes the Jockey Club, the Breeders Cup, Keeneland Racecourse, the Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association, the Water Hay Oats Alliance, and animal welfare groups like Animal Wellness Action.

The fractured nature of anti-doping and track safety efforts across the U.S.’s 38 racing jurisdictions has undermined the public’s confidence in horseracing, threatened the integrity of competition, and endangered the human and equine athletes.

In order to create these uniform performance and safety standards for the sport of horseracing, the HISA creates the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, which is a private, independent, self-regulatory, nonprofit organization. It will not be funded by the federal government – the horseracing industry will pay the funds necessary for the establishment and administration of the Authority. The Authority is tasked with developing and implementing both a horseracing anti-doping and medication control program and a racetrack safety program.

The Authority will be governed by a Board of Directors consisting of nine members. Five of those members will be independent of the industry, and four members will be experts from the following sectors of the industry: owners and breeders, trainers, racetracks, veterinarians, State racing commissions, and jockeys. To assist with the development of these programs, the Board will establish an anti-doping and medication control standing committee and a racetrack safety standing committee, both controlled by independent members outside the industry. All independent members of the Board and standing committees will be subject to strict conflict-of-interest standards.

The Authority will be required to create a set of uniform anti-doping rules, including lists of prohibited substances and methods, protocols around the administration of permitted substances, and laboratory testing accreditation and protocols. These permitted and prohibited substances and practices will be developed after taking into consideration international anti-doping standards and veterinarian ethical standards, along with consulting racing industry representatives and the public. The new nationwide rules would replace the current patchwork of regulatory systems that govern horseracing’s 38 separate racing jurisdictions. For services related to the enforcement of this program, the Authority shall enter into an agreement with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which has a proven track record of conducting anti-doping and medication control activities for all U.S. Olympic athletes and its approach can easily be adapted to horseracing.

To protect the health and safety of racehorses and jockeys, the Authority will also create a racetrack safety program, consisting of a uniform set of training and racing safety standards and protocols. Those standards include racetrack design and maintenance, oversight of human and equine injury reporting and prevention, and the procedures for undertaking investigations at racetrack and non-racetrack facilities related to safety violations. The Authority creates an accreditation program to ensure that racetracks comply with these safety procedures, and in order to continue gather information on racetrack safety, the Authority will establish a nationwide database of racehorse safety, performance, health, and injury information within one year of the establishment of the program.

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