New anti-doping, medication rules for horse racing unveiled

National Sports

Competitors ride during the Breeders’ Cup Mile race at the Del Mar racetrack in Del Mar, Calif., Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The nascent Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority on Thursday released a draft of proposed anti-doping and medication control rules designed to bring uniformity to a sport that has operated for years under patchwork regulations in 38 racing states.

Since July, HISA has been working with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to develop rules that are now open to public comment, including from those in the racing industry.

On Dec. 6, the proposed rules go to the Federal Trade Commission for further public comment and FTC approval. If approved by the FTC and HISA, the rules would take effect July 1.

The biggest changes involve applying the rules uniformly across every racing state and altering the way violations are dealt with.

“There would no longer be a myriad of different scenarios playing out that calls into question the whole system and its effectiveness,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a video interview.

Under the rules, the anti-bleeding medication Lasix would be prohibited on race day in all 2-year-old and stakes races, as well as other races. Last week, all 14 races at the Breeders’ Cup world championships were run without Lasix for the first time.

Primary substances, including anabolic steroids and erythropoietin (EPO) that can increase red blood cells and boost aerobic capacity, would be prohibited at all times.

Such secondary substances as anti-inflammatories and supplements would be banned on race day. Up to 48 hours before a race, horses could be given only water, hay and oats. Beginning at midnight on race day, there could be no detection of any prohibited substance.

Under the rules, a positive test, use or possession of a primary substance would be punishable by a suspension of up to two years or up to four years if there were aggravating circumstances or a second violation within 10 years. A lifetime ban could be handed down for a third or more violation within 10 years.

A positive test, use or possession of a secondary substance could result in punishment of a suspension of up to 30 days and a fine. That could be extended up to two years if there were aggravating circumstances or a fourth or more violation of this type within five years.

“This is one of the key steps in firming up a successful future for horse racing in the U.S.,” said Tessa Muir, director of USADA’s equine program.

Like human athletes, horses could be tested anywhere and at any time without advance notice until they permanently retire from racing.

Not informing HISA of a horse’s whereabouts could result in a sanction of up to one year. Still under development is technology that would track a horse’s whereabouts, especially when it is given an extended break from racing.

“It is an inconvenience and a burden on people, and we understand that,” Tygart said, adding that at the same time, “The burden isn’t anywhere close to what our human athletes have to go through.”

Evasion, tampering, administration of a primary substance, trafficking, complicity and retaliation could draw a sanction of up to two years. Failure to cooperate and administration of a secondary substance would be punished by a suspension of up to 30 days and a fine.

Horses can be punished, too. Any race-day violations would result in their automatic disqualification.

Owners, trainers and veterinarians would be educated about the rules through a combination of online and in-person training. Trainers would be required to register with HISA.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act became law last January and established the authority to enforce the legislation.

Opponents have filed lawsuits in Kentucky and Texas seeking to prevent the act from being implemented.

“We’re not blind to the fact that there have been a few that never wanted the legislation to pass and fought it tooth and nail. It’s been a waste of precious time and resources, unfortunately,” Tygart said.

“You would hope that we could eventually prove to them that this is the right thing. We’re not going to let those tied to the status quo or fearful of change stop this industry from progressing. The viability of the industry long-term is at stake.”

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