Post by VIVIAN FARRELL
Remember that ‘fox watching the henhouse’ feeling I mentioned concerning H.R. 1754, The Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2019?
I was about to make a run at summarizing the lengthy reports I received from our own legislative and horse racing specialists on H.R. 1754 when the heavens opened and led me to a two-pronged report, entitled “Racing’s Proposed New Legislation: Setup for USADA to Fail?” on the Horse Race Insider website (horseraceinsider.com), posted July 12, 2019.
First off, Horse Racing Insider published the Press Release by Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity entitled, “Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity Blankets Capitol Hill.” I won’t sport with your intelligence by quoting from that. However, I instantly smelled a rat when I saw this:
“The Jockey Club Wednesday sent out an email alerting the public that the Coalition for Horse Race Integrity put on a full-court press in its lobbying efforts in Washington D.C., pushing for the passage of the Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2019, aka Barr-Tonko.
The Jockey Club. The Coalition for Horse Race Integrity. Two rats, of the largest kind.
Where it gets interesting is what follows that nonsense, which is the analysis of the Barr-Tonko bill by Dr. Sheila Lyons, DVM. Dr. Lyons is the founder and director of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.
Dr. Lyons opens her analysis of H.R. 1754 with:
“After careful review of the House bill titled the “Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019” I would like to offer my thoughts and opinion regarding its proposed structure for anti-doping and medication control in horseracing. I offer this opinion based upon more than thirty years in clinical practice as an equine veterinarian in private sports medicine practice attending to racehorses and other equine athletes. I also provided testimony at the 2012 (Senate) and 2013 (House) hearings on the Pitts/Udall horseracing integrity and safety bills.”
Dr. Lyon’s analysis is in two parts. An Overview section, which I post in full; a discussion section where I am posting only her introductory points.
Note: USADA stands for United States Anti-Doping Agency (https://www.usada.org/)
The Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019 seems to directly accomplish only two things: 1) It will create uniform rules and regulations regarding the use of drugs in racehorses amongst the states through the creation of a national regulatory structure imposed through a newly created nonprofit entity; and, 2) It will eliminate the administration of drugs on race day. Unfortunately, neither of these changes will directly impact the common abuse of drugs used to mask injury and or enhance performance. This proposed legislation ultimately leaves the details of drug regulation in the control of members of the horseracing industry despite the reality that following decades of promises to regulate drugs effectively, it has failed to do so.
My greatest concerns about the proposed structure for the new regulatory agency (“Authority”) that will be created through this legislation are as follows:
- USADA will not have independent authority to create and implement drug regulations;
- A committee of six horseracing industry representatives will have the ability to block any change in regulation proposed by the USADA committee;
- Only one veterinarian is included in the combined USADA and industry committees which means that discussions and decisions about drugs that will be officially deemed “permitted” and “therapeutic” medications will be made largely by individuals who have no expertise or authority on this subject and whose self-interests may be in conflict with the strict regulation of such drugs;
- USADA can leave the Authority after five years;
- When USADA leaves the Authority, regulation will be exclusively in the hands of industry representatives who will nominate their own successors;
- While the health and well-being of the horse is stated as the guiding factor for all regulation, there are no animal welfare representatives on the six member industry based committee;
- The Authority must publish and solicit industry and public comment prior to making any changes in regulation;
- There is no stated requirement that all state veterinary board statutes will be upheld and monitored for the practice of veterinary medicine on racehorses. The bill also fails to mandate the review of veterinary records as a means to ascertain that all veterinary services are ethical and put the health of the horse first.
Please Note: Introductory points only.
1) USADA will not have independent authority to create and implement drug regulations
2) A committee of six horseracing industry representatives will have the ability to block any change in regulation proposed by the USADA committee
3) Only one veterinarian is included in the combined USADA and industry committees which means that discussions and decisions about drugs that will be officially deemed “permitted” and “therapeutic” medications will be made largely by individuals who have no expertise or authority on this subject and whose self-interests may be in conflict with the strict regulation of such drugs;
4) USADA can leave the Authority after five years
I will quote Dr. Lyons from this section:
I find this to be revealing of the ultimate intention of this bill, which is to ensure that the sport of horseracing remains fully controlled by the industry itself, not by federally legislated mandate.
[No 5); jumps to 6) in the source]
6) While the health and well-being of the horse is stated as the guiding factor for all regulation, there are no animal welfare representatives on the six member industry based committee
7) The Authority must publish and solicit industry and public comment prior to making any changes in regulation
8) There is no stated requirement that all state veterinary board statutes will be upheld and monitored for the practice of veterinary medicine on racehorses
I must include this from Section 8:
“The bill also states that the Authority will create a list of “permitted” “therapeutic” medications. The concept of “permitted” medication is what led to the reckless and nontherapeutic use of drugs at the trainer’s request or by the veterinarian’s recommendation, in order to help the horse to race better than it naturally could through injury masking or performance enhancement.
“While this bill states that the health of the horse will be the over-riding goal of all medication use and that the principles of veterinary ethics will be a basis for all veterinary treatments, there is no provision that veterinary practices and veterinary records will be reviewed or monitored to be sure that drugs are strictly used in a therapeutic context and that no drug of any kind will be in any effect on the day the horse races.
“There is also no language that states that the Authority will refer cases of possible violation of state veterinary board statutes to the proper state agency for review and potential action against licensee veterinarians. This is essential for clean sport enforcement and the protection of health and safety for horses and riders.”
You’re seeing what we’re seeing? Right?
At the end Dr. Lyons adds, “By contrast, I find the more recently developed Racehorse Doping Ban Act of 2019, aka Udall/Wyden, simple and straightforward. It defines the structure for regulatory oversight that will effectively control the flow of drugs in racing.”
There is another reason that this piece of legislative malarky is just that — malarky. It was something that hit me when reading about a racehorse doping episode in another country. I was already prepared to change our neutral position based on that, before I came across the above.
I will give you a rest first though, and post it about it later this week. Or so. There’s so much to digest here.
Oppose H.R. 1754
It they have not, ask them not to cosponsor H.R. 1754 and to vote against it.
If they have cosponsored H.R. 1754, ask them to withdraw their cosponsorship and vote against it. Yes, this is done!
Thank you everyone for staying with us, and loving our horses.
• H.R. 1754 — The Horse Racing Integrity Act, Tuesday’s Horse, 24 June 2019 »
In the article linked above, we wrote: “Isn’t it better than nothing”? Possibly. “Isn’t it better than what we got now?” Almost anything is.
We were wrong. It’s not better than nothing. It is nothing at all, just more of the same.