USTA announces opposition to Horse Racing Integrity Act

Posted: Sept. 6, 2017

The United States Trotting Association Sept. 5 announced its opposition to the Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2017 for multiple reasons, including a proposed ban on race-day Lasix and the makeup of the authority that would oversee equine medication policy and a financing scheme for increased testing.

The USTA is the governing body, breed registry, and official data provider for the Standardbred industry. The organization said it had no input in drafting the federal bill, which was introduced this spring after the rewrite 2015 of legislation that never made it to the committee hearing stage.

The USTA in 2012 said it believes the most humane way to treat exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage is through race-day administration of furosemide—Lasix—under controlled conditions by a licensed veterinarian. It noted the American Association of Equine Practitioners, which earlier this year opposed the federal bill, endorses continued use of Lasix until a viable alternative can be found.

In a lengthy release, the USTA said it “strongly supports” breed-specific uniform medication rules for horse racing because of some differences in the way Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds are raced. The USTA a few years ago dropped out of the Racing Mediation and Testing Consortium, which recommended all-breed rules for the bronchodilator clenbuterol and corticosteroids.

“As the Association of Racing Commissioners International has recently agreed and the USTA has advocated all along, the differences in the racing breeds and their business models, particularly the frequency that the horses race, requires there to be separate rules for each breed in the use of therapeutic medications,” USTA President Russell Williams said in the release. “A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, which is what H.R.2651 appears to advocate, isn’t right, isn’t fair, doesn’t promote equine health, and won’t work.”

The Horse Racing Integrity Act this year was revised to include Standardbred and Quarter Horse racing. It would still put the United States Anti-Doping Agency in charge of equine drug-testing and enforcement and create an oversight board—the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority—proponents of the legislation claim will be independent.

“The proposed board members will have no experience with or understanding of the horseracing industry or the welfare of the horses,” Williams said. “It seeks to replace the current state regulatory system where uniformity largely exists and is made up of regulators with extensive experience and knowledge of horse racing.

“Also, it is a significant concern to the USTA that this legislation would designate the Federal Trade Commission as the ultimate regulatory authority, bypassing agencies like the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration that have experience with animal welfare issues.”

Williams also said the USTA is concerned about an unfunded mandate for drug testing.

“There is no stipulation for federal funding in the legislation as there is for the United States Anti-Doping Agency in its testing of human athletes, which would give HAMCA a blank check to impose new costs to racetracks and horsemen with minimal oversight or accountability,” he said.

Harness Horsemen International earlier announced its opposition to the legislation, as did the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and its affiliates; National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and its affiliates; Thoroughbred Owners of California; the American Quarter Horse Association; the North American Association of Racetrack Veterinarians; and ARCI and the AAEP.

(Photo by Tom LaMarra)