‘Stop bickering,’ group tells Horseracing Authority, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency
Disagreement Between Key Parties Threatens Effective Enforcement of Anti-Doping Law
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A much-praised effort to bring some uniformity and consistency to rules governing horse racing and its safety is running into gridlock and a animal rights group is urging insiders to put aside their differences.
Animal Wellness Action leaders addressed the recent breakdown in discussions between the new Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in letters delivered Tuesday to the leaders of both organizations.
“USADA’s involvement is the very bedrock and foundation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act,” said Animal Wellness Action executive director Marty Irby and president Wayne Pacelle, who through the years testified before Congress and urged medication reform in racing. “Throughout the course of our engagement with all the members of the Coalition for Horseracing Integrity, there has truly only been one constant within a wide array of bills introduced over the years, and that constant has been USADA as the drug-testing entity.”
“Quite frankly, the legislation enacted was written with language specifically tailored to comply with Constitutional concerns and oversight from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to effectively allow USADA to contract with an entity that has authority granted by Congress, and the law calls for a five-year agreement between USADA and the HISA,” added Irby and Pacelle.
Aware of the public outrage over the mounting number of race horse deaths on American race tracks, readers at Animal Wellness Action worked for the better part of six years to secure enactment of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act that was signed into law in December 2020 by President Donald Trump following a Congressional hearing in January 2020, and the indictment of dozens of individuals involved in illegal doping scandals across the country.
The legislation, led by Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Andy Barr, R-Ky., in the U.S. House, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as well as Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Diane Feinstein, D-Calif. was designed to execute and enforce a uniform national standard for drug testing, and national regulations that would be overseen by USADA and implemented at every Thoroughbred racetrack in the U.S.
The legislation established the new HISA board of directors, who have been in negotiations with USADA for most of 2021, but the HISA board has failed to secure an agreement with USADA to execute the intent of the legislation. USADA publicly announced on December 23, 2021, that it was walking away from the negotiations due to what it described as insurmountable differences with HISA.
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act specifically calls for implementation of the legislation by mid-2022, and a five-year-contract between the HISA board and USADA.
“Learning negotiations between HISA and USADA had broken down just two days before Christmas was an unexpected gut punch to those of us who worked for more than half a decade to enact the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act,” added Irby.
“It is critical for the lives of countless horses and the future of American horseracing that the HISA board secure a five-year-contract with USADA and see that there is robust and effective enforcement of the national anti-doping rules,” added Pacelle.