Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit provides update on strategy

By: Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit

Posted: Sept. 28, 2022

The Horseracing Integrity & Welfare Unit was established in 2022 by Drug Free Sport International to administer the rules and enforcement mechanisms of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program. The program, which will be effective Jan. 1, 2023, will create a centralized testing and results-management process and apply uniform penalties for violations efficiently and consistently across the United States. HIWU will oversee testing, educate stakeholders on the new program, accredit laboratories, investigate potential violations, and prosecute any such violations.

The following report was provided to HISA by HIWU Executive Director Ben Mosier.

In May, HISA announced that it had selected Drug Free Sport International, a global leader in the sport drug-testing industry, to build HISA’s Anti-Doping and Medication Control enforcement agency through the establishment of the HIWU.

Following HISA’s submission of the rules for its ADMC Program to the Federal Trade Commission for approval and HIWU’s announcement of key leadership hires in August, HIWU has been focused on five key areas in preparation for the implementation of the ADMC Program.

This summer, HIWU hired Kate Mittelstadt and Michelle Pujals to serve as HIWU’s Chief of Operations and general counsel, respectively. They have extensive backgrounds in sports and anti-doping matters, and we are already benefiting from their expertise within our rapidly growing unit. By the end of October, we expect to have a team of at least 20 full-time staff members. That group will include a chief of science, which is a critical leadership role for us. We aim to have approximately 35 full-time staff members by the end of 2022.

The new hires will primarily serve in roles focused on sample collection administration, testing operations, compliance, quality assurance, education and industry outreach, state racing commission relations, collaboration with laboratories, investigations, and technology.

Cooperation with state racing commissions will be central to our success. Since late August, we have initiated conversations with all 22 state racing commissions currently under HISA jurisdiction, with the objective of identifying ways we can best work together to implement the ADMC rules and protocols next year. The meetings have centered on the draft rules, sample collection personnel in the field, and support in the processes that the states may still oversee in consultation with HIWU, as well as enforcement mechanisms. Conversations will continue with state racing commissions in the coming weeks with the goal of reaching cooperative agreements with each.

The ADMC Program cannot be effective without sound collection protocols and buy-in from sample-collection personnel. Our goal is to maintain as much continuity as possible in terms of current staffing in this area. HIWU is finalizing documents and procedures for a paperless collection system to be used in the field, in nationwide test distribution planning, and for sample-collection equipment. We will provide collection personnel across the country with the proper training and support to carry out the ADMC Program’s sample collection regulations.

The laboratory accreditation protocols and standards outlined in the ADMC Program represent a comprehensive approach to ensuring sample integrity and accurate results. To ensure uniformity in the application of the new rules, laboratory procedures and testing standards must be harmonized across states and racing jurisdictions. To this end, HIWU is working to identify and build partnerships with the top laboratory facilities in the country to satisfy the sample analysis and reporting requirements of the ADMC Program. To date, we have been in communication with all nine laboratories accredited by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium regarding the administration of HIWU’s testing regime, and meetings will continue as we work toward the Jan. 1, 2023, implementation date.

HIWU is developing education materials to help ensure all Thoroughbred racing participants, including state racing commissions, owners, jockeys, racetrack personnel, stewards, veterinarians, and other stakeholders, understand the ins-and-outs of the ADMC Program before it goes into effect. We recognize that robust education efforts that engage all relevant stakeholders will be instrumental in achieving a smooth and successful rollout in the new year. Our education approach will focus on ensuring each group of racing participants is well-versed in the information most relevant to their role in implementing and complying with the ADMC Program.

We are in the process of planning both virtual and in-person education sessions. Additionally, bilingual educational materials will be distributed to all relevant groups and housed on a new HIWU website that will be launched shortly.

As part of our efforts in the aforementioned focus areas, we have been utilizing the extensive knowledge of our five-person Advisory Council. Together, its members bring decades of anti-doping, equine, scientific, investigatory, and legal experience to the table, and their insights have been invaluable as the ADMC Program’s launch date approaches. Besides monthly group calls with the Advisory Council, we have hosted one in-person workshop and intend to organize a second meeting before the end of the year. Additionally, we maintain frequent correspondence with each member individually to utilize respective skillsets.