New bill would ban doping horses on race day

Animal welfare advocates have been calling for federal regulations that ban the dangerous practice of doping horses on race day. This fall, the proposed bill was approved.

On September 9, 2020, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee passed H.R. 1754, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA), which is now poised to advance to the House floor following a bipartisan vote of 46 to five. The HISA includes a ban on race-day doping, the establishment of a uniform national standard for rules and regulations for U.S. horseracing that would be overseen by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). This landmark legislation would directly address the safety and welfare of racehorses, and the integrity of the sport itself, through better anti-doping measures and racetrack safety standards.

“We applaud long-time anti-doping leaders Paul Tonko and Andy Barr, and Senators McSally, McConnell, Gillibrand, and Feinstein, who’ve saddled up to charge ahead with this effort to reform American horse racing,” says Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action, who testified on the issue before Congress in January. “The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will put the welfare of the horses at the center of the enterprise, and will create a level playing field for owners, trainers, breeders, and the betting public by ending doping in the sport.”

According to Senator Martha McSally, R-Ariz., the misuse of potentially dangerous substances to boost performance harms horses and has led to numerous injuries and deaths. In fact, 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.

“This vote is a major step forward for our bipartisan drive to bring greater safety and integrity to the sport of horse racing,” says Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y.

The patchwork of regulations across the country’s 38 racing jurisdictions has undermined the public’s confidence in horseracing, threatened the integrity of competition, and endangered the human and equine athletes. Enactment of the HISA – a bill that’s now supported by all three Triple Crown racetracks – will address these problems head on while helping to enhance the public’s interest in this very important industry.


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