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The doping of American racehorses has been the subject of Congressional attention over the past five years. File photo
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Congress passes new law to ban horse doping on race day

REGION — In a victory for animal welfare, President Donald Trump signed into law on Dec. 27 the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, concluding an eight-year campaign to end medication abuses leading to equestrian breakdowns, injuries and deaths on tracks across the nation.

The act, which was included within a federal $900 billion year-end spending bill, promises to end the era of widespread doping of horses in Thoroughbred racing. The legislation includes a ban on race-day doping and the establishment of a uniform national standard for rules and regulations for U.S. horseracing overseen by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

“We don’t allow doping of athletes in cycling, baseball, and other professional sports,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “It’s should be a no-brainer to forbid this form of cheating and dangerous treatment of horses in American Thoroughbred racing, too.”

The doping of American racehorses has been the subject of congressional attention over the past five years with hundreds of horses dying on racetracks weekly, and the indictment of 37 trainers and veterinarians in March of 2020.

The bill has the support of Animal Wellness Action (AWA), the Animal Wellness Foundation (AWF), Horses for Life Foundation, the American Horse Protection Society, the Center for a Humane Economy, and key players throughout the horse racing industry, including all three Triple Crown racetracks. Churchill Downs, which runs the Kentucky Derby, is the most recent corporation to get on board.

“The signing of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is the greatest gain for horse protection in half a century, will put the welfare of the horses at the center of the enterprise, and put the sport on a level playing field that aligns with the rest of the world,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action.

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 New York Racing Association, The Stronach Group, the Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association, the Water Hay Oats Alliance, U.S. Harness Racing Alumni Association, and Animal Wellness Action.

Key Provisions

The law establishes an independent and self-regulatory nonprofit organization, Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA), to create uniform performance and safety standards; develop and implement both a horseracing anti-doping and medication control program; and a racetrack safety program. The horseracing industry, not the federal government, will be responsible for funding the organization.

Furthermore, the organization 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.

Lastly, HISA will also create a racetrack safety program, consisting of a uniform set of training and racing safety standards and protocols to protect the health and safety of racehorses and jockeys.

Standards include racetrack design and maintenance, oversight of human and equine injury reporting and prevention and procedures for undertaking investigations at racetrack and non-racetrack facilities related to safety violations.