Revised federal medication legislation would ban race-day Lasix

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: May 25, 2017

As expected, a revised version of federal legislation that would place the United States Anti-Doping Agency in charge of equine medication, testing and enforcement now includes a ban on the race-day medication Lasix and broadens its reach to Standardbred and Quarter Horse racing.

The Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017, formerly the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015, was introduced May 25 by U.S. Reps. Andy Barr, a Kentucky Republican, and Paul Tonko, a New York Democrat. Both lawmakers were involved in sponsoring the original bill, which never made it to the federal committee hearing stage.

The “uniform, anti-doping and medication control program” authorized by the legislation (House Resolution 2651) would create the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority, which would be headed by the chief executive officer of USADA, currently Travis Tygart. USADA would have six other members and also the power to appoint the other six.

A release states that the Federal Trade Commission “would have limited oversight of the authority.” The FTC in part was created to “protect consumers by preventing anti-competitive, deceptive, and unfair business practices.”

The 2015 legislation didn’t call for a ban on Lasix, the only medication that can be legally administered on race day. The bill did say that the oversight authority would have discretion over all policy, which led horsemen’s groups to call the measure a stalking horse for elimination of the anti-bleeding medication.

The latest bill requires the authority to ban the use of all medication within 24 hours of a race no later than Jan. 1, 2019, should it pass. It also says the authority is charged with establishing a list of permitted and prohibited medications and treatment methods.

Any attempts to ban race-day Lasix, which treats exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging, have been widely opposed by horsemen’s groups in the United States and North America. Most racetracks also have shown no appetite for a ban.

A release from the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, a Jockey Club-driven entity that supports the endeavor, said the 2017 bill “has no effect” on the Interstate Horseracing Act, which governs pari-mutuel wagering across state lines and gives multiple parties, including horsemen, rights regarding signal transmissions. The first version would have allowed the authority to block transmission of simulcast signals if jurisdictions didn’t comply.

The bill instead employs this vague language: “As a condition of eligibility to participate in covered horse races, covered persons agree that they and their covered horses shall be bound by the provisions of the horseracing anti-doping and medication control program established” by the legislation.

The legislation makes no mention of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, which has guided the national uniform medication effort in the U.S. for about 10 years, other than its role in accrediting laboratories. The RMTC created the Multiple Medication Violation Penalty System under which points are assigned for violations; the new bill offers no details on penalties, which apparently would be at the discretion of the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority.

The complete bill is available for review here.