Ahead of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) announced that next week they will introduce the Racehorse Doping Ban Act of 2019, which would establish consistent medication rules across the industry and strict doping penalties for horse races already governed by federal law.
“It is past time that Congress stop rewarding the horse racing industry for its inhumane doping violations with sweetheart gambling privileges and millions in casino slots subsidies,” said Udall. “This weekend, shielded from the eyes of fans, horses competing in the Kentucky Derby will be injected with painkillers before being loaded into the starting gate. With racehorse death rates higher than in any other country, the U.S. industry has completely failed to self-regulate its doping and corruption abuses. Legislation to ban doping in horseracing is the meaningful action we need to end the abuse of these iconic animals. Headlines around the country make it clear the future of this sport is in serious doubt, and this may be the last chance for meaningful reform—it’s time for industry leaders to take the blinders off.”
“It’s clear industry leaders are more concerned with their profits than protecting these iconic creatures,” Wyden said. “It’s time for Congress to step in and end the cycle of abuse by banning the cruel practice of doping in horseracing once and for all.”
While horse racing showcases the beauty of an iconic animal, chronic abuse of performance-enhancing drugs is commonplace and undermines the safety and viability of the sport. Drugged up with painkillers and performance-enhancing substances, racehorses can be pushed beyond their limits, leading to break downs with potentially fatal consequences for horses and jockeys.
Congress considered banning drugs in horse racing in the 1980s but left that decision up to individual states. As a result, almost every horse is given race-day medication — banned in other countries — and no uniform medication rules or doping penalties exist across the states. A recent New York Times report stated that the U.S. has a racehorse fatality rate that is up to five times greater than in other countries with nearly 10 horses dying a week. The scale of the tragedy was made shockingly clear earlier this year when twenty-three racehorses died in a span of three months at the famous Santa Anita Track in California, prompting the owners to close the track temporarily and consider new reforms.
Under Udall and Wyden’s legislation, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) – which is the official anti-doping body for US Olympic sport – would develop rules for permitted and prohibited substances and create anti-doping education, research, testing and adjudication programs for horse racing. The bill would also:
Alternative legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives that would not specifically ban the most harmful doping practices but rather create an industry dominated panel to list approved racehorse drugs.
Udall has fought for years to reform the horse racing industry. He and Wyden sponsored similar legislation in 2013, and in 2015, following the failure of the U.S. industry to agree to meaningful reform legislation, Udall and former Representative Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) introduced legislation to eliminate the federal statute that allows most wagering on horse racing to encourage the sport to end doping and crack down on cheaters.
Some members of the horse racing community have voiced strong support for the Racehorse Doping Ban Act of 2019.
“We wholeheartedly support Senator Udall’s Racehorse Doping Ban Act of 2019. It is time for American to join the rest of the world. Horse racing is a beautiful popular sport in Great Britain, France and Hong Kong. Any type of doping is absolutely prohibited. If our country wants to join the global racing community we must get on board with this no drug policy. More importantly: our country and our horses deserve fair treatment and a fair sport. We would like to honor and commend Senator Udall for working towards this venerable goal,” said George Strawbridge, Jr and Julia Jenkins, owners of Augustin Stable.
“Roy and I have supported the Pitts, Udall Bill since it’s conception. The Racehorse Doping Ban Act of 2019-based on the Senator Udall’s 2013 bill is a well stated, well thought out comprehensive bill. It will save Thoroughbred Horse racing from extinction. It comes at the right time to offer support to the industry in the right way. Giving it guidelines and all-important protection for our beloved racehorses,” said Gretchen Jackson and Roy Jackson, owners of Lael Stables.
|Thursday, March 28, 2019|
The Jockey Club today released a major white paper calling for comprehensive reform of the U.S. horse racing industry including a major overhaul of drug use and uniform out-of-competition drug testing, citing the need for “transparency into the medical treatment, injuries, and health of all racehorses.”
The paper’s release follows the death of 22 racehorses at California’s Santa Anita Park in less than three months. The Jockey Club wrote that “it would be a mistake to view the Santa Anita fatalities as an isolated situation — spikes in the deaths of horses have occurred at other tracks and they will continue to occur without significant reforms.”
The Jockey Club was particularly critical of drug use in the horse racing industry saying that “improper drug use can directly lead to horse injuries and deaths. Horses aren’t human and the only way they can tell us if something is wrong is by reacting to a symptom. If that symptom is masked, the results can be devastating.” And that “we lag behind cheaters and abusers and by the time we have caught up they have moved on to the next designer substance.”
The Jockey Club expressed its strong support for federal legislation citing the Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2019, H.R. 1754, which would create a private, independent, horse racing anti-doping authority responsible for developing and administering a nationwide anti-doping and medication control program. The program would be administered by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, the body responsible for administering anti-doping programs for human athletes including the U.S. Olympic teams.
“For far too long, cheaters have been abusing the system and the horses are most often the ones to suffer,” said James L. Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club. “It is particularly disturbing that there is little out-of-competition drug testing in the United States. U.S. horse racing lags far behind international standards. It’s time we joined the rest of the world in putting in place the best measures to protect the health and safety of our equine athletes.”
In addition to reforming how drugs are used and monitored, The Jockey Club is calling for other reforms targeted at health of equine athletes, including:
“Will we ever know the exact cause of spikes in horse fatalities? Unless there is change in the industry that answer is, sadly, probably not,” wrote The Jockey Club. “A key to this change is the requirement of full transparency into the medical treatment, injuries, and health of all racehorses. Today, we can’t fully see what is going on with a horse because of differing state and track practices, antiquated practices, and purposeful deceit about what drugs are given to horses at what times.”
The Jockey Club is the breed registry for Thoroughbreds in North America. Since its founding 125 years ago, it has been dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing, focusing on improvements to the integrity, health, and safety of the sport. The Jockey Club has long held that horses must only race when they are free from the effects of medication.
Download the report: Vision 2025 – To Prosper, Horse Racing Needs Comprehensive Reform. For additional information, please visit The Jockey Club or the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity.
The National HBPA understands everyone in the Thoroughbred racing industry loves and has steadfast passion for our equine athletes. We know that owners, trainers and jockeys who deal each day with these amazing animals understand this deep connection. To those of us who have lived this life, our horses are members of our family. The loss of one horse causes concern for every racetrack, every employee and every equine organization in the industry.
The National HBPA and our affiliates stand fast in the promotion of safety in and for the racetrack, as well as surface testing and equine safety and welfare initiatives.
The NHBPA applauds the California horsemen’s groups, the California Horse Racing Board and the track ownership and management at Santa Anita in utilizing all the expertise available to study and resolve the current issue because we believe the safety of the horse and rider is the number one priority of the industry.
We are certain the thorough investigation underway will result in a safer environment for our equine and human athletes as we continuously strive for the safest conditions.