Cross-posted from the New York Times
WRITTEN BY JOE DRAPE
Two lawmakers who contend that the United States Anti-Doping Agency is the most effective agency to regulate horse racing plan to introduce a bill in Congress to give it the authority to enforce antidoping standards and to kick out violators.
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act was written by the lawmakers, Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, and Representative Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania, and they plan to introduce it when Congress returns to session next week. The act would give the antidoping agency, known as Usada, the authority to develop rules for permitted and prohibited substances, and it also would create testing and stiffer penalty programs for horse racing nationally, replacing the patchwork state-by-state system currently in place.
Usada, a nongovernmental organization, is the official antidoping agency for the United States Olympics team and has worked with Major League Baseball and other professional leagues to eliminate performance-enhancing drugs. Its credibility as a vigilant watchdog was enhanced most recently when it was widely credited for its relentless pursuit of the cyclist Lance Armstrong, who earlier this year admitted that he had systematically used drugs during his racing career.
“We look forward to helping the industry clean itself up,” said Travis Tygart, Usada’s chief executive. “We fully support, and have shown, that the independent model is the only truly effective way to regulate a sport.”
Unlike previous bills, which were not enacted, the new one would enable Usada to act as the antidoping body without amending the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 or involve any federal agency or regulation, increasing hopes for its passage. It would be financed by the industry — racetracks, horsemen groups, breeders and owners — through either a percentage of the betting handle or a series of fees.
“The chronic abuse of race horses with painkillers and other drugs is dangerous and just plain wrong,” Udall said. “Racing groups have promised drug reform for decades, but this bill would bring in real standards and enforcement from an organization with a proven record for cleaning up sports.”
“Last year, I chaired a hearing that took a deep look into the problems of both legal and illegal drugs in horse racing,” Pitts said. “We heard testimony about how abuse of drugs is killing horses and imperiling riders. Before more people and animals are hurt, we need to put a responsible national authority in charge of cleaning up racing. This is a sensible, bipartisan measure to restore trust in racing and protect lives.”