Jockeys’ Guild weighs in on federal equine medication legislation

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Sept. 27, 2017

The Jockeys’ Guild Sept. 27 said that while it in general supports a “legislative solution” for uniform regulation of equine medication, it can’t endorse the proposed Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2017 as written.

The Guild, which represents riders in Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse races, addressed a proposed Lasix ban, funding, governance, and involvement by current industry regulatory organizations in its statement on the federal bill being pushed by the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity. Most of the issues have been raised by various horsemen’s groups that previously announced opposition to the legislation.

The Jockeys’ Guild Board of Directors said it “supports the view that there needs to be a change to better protect the integrity of our industry and promote the level playing field that all members of the racing community desire and deserve,” but it took into consideration “the possible impact of the adoption of such legislation on the entire industry, including horsemen and owners as well as regulators and racetracks.”

The Guild, which calls safety of horses and riders paramount, said it has had multiple discussions with The Jockey Club—the primary organization behind the Horse Racing Integrity Act—the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Association of Racing Commissioners International and other groups “in considering the most appropriate position” for all of its members.

It did say it hopes to work with industry organizations and legislative leaders on the “best program of medication control for the horseracing industry.”

“The Guild agrees that the proposed Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2017 has many needed elements that will standardize and improve uniform regulation of equine medication in our industry, and, in general, is supportive of a legislative solution,” the statement reads. “However, the Guild offers the following observation, which it believes needs to be addressed before the proposed legislation could be supported.”

The 2017 federal medication bill, unlike the version of 2015, calls for a ban on race-day Lasix. The Guild in its statement said it opposes the ban because it believes Lasix is necessary for the safety of horses and riders. Its position is similar to those taken by other industry organizations such as the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

“The Guild believes that until there is a consensus reached within the industry that the elimination of Lasix on race day is in the best interest of the horse, it should not be prohibited,” the statement reads. “In addition, the Guild strongly suggests that all racing jurisdictions adopt rules requiring the administration of Lasix on race day be done by a licensed, independent third party.”

Third-party administration of race-day Lasix is a primary component of the National Uniform Medication Program.

As for funding of a federally authorized anti-doping program run by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, the Guild said it is concerned that “extra costs for the proposed anti-doping agency will place severe burdens on racetracks and owners, especially at smaller tracks where many jockeys began their careers and where many of our members ride.” The organization called for more discussion on the cost of the program and “how it may be productively allocated within existing revenue sources.”

The Guild noted the work of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and Association of Racing Commissioners International in developing the National Uniform Medication Program and called for specific language in the bill that would give the two organizations continued roles in establishing policy. It said the legislation should “provide the RMTC with the same significant status it enjoys today,” and “should enhance” the role of ARCI, an umbrella organization for state regulatory agencies.

The Horse Racing Integrity Act would create the “independent” Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority, members of which would be approved or selected by USADA. The Guild believes the racing industry should have more say in the structure.

“The Guild believes that the horseracing industry should develop a consensus on the governance of the new entity created by the (Horse Racing Integrity Act), with more general rights granted to the industry on matters of the overall performance of the new anti-doping agency,” the statement reads. “Furthermore, the Guild, while respecting the no-conflict governance structure, wishes to see the legislation amended to specifically provide for a board seat for the direct nominee of the Jockeys’ Guild.”

The Guild also believes a review of the authority should be conducted upon its third anniversary, not fifth anniversary as stated in the bill.

The federal legislation introduced in the House of Representatives as of Sept. 27 had 79 sponsors. It has not yet been called for a committee hearing, and companion legislation has not yet been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

The 2017 version of the legislation was modified to include Standardbred and Quarter Horse racing. The United States Trotting Association and American Quarter Horse Association, the sports’ respective governing bodies, have both come out in opposition to the bill.

(Photo by Jim McCue/MJC)