Pennsylvania Representative Joe Pitts (R) is among three legislators proposing a bill to end doping in horseracing.
Pitts, along with U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) introduced The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act on May 16. The bill would provide the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) with authority to cleanup the sport and enforce anti-doping standards in races with simulcast wagering.
USADA is a non-governmental organization that is designated as the official anti-doping agency for the U.S. Olympics and works with sports leagues, including Major League Baseball, to strengthen clean competition policies. USADA is the agency that pursued cyclist Lance Armstrong, who earlier this year admitted that he had systematically used drugs during his racing career.
"Last year, I chaired a hearing that took a deep look into the problems of both legal and illegal drugs in horseracing," said Pitts. "We heard testimony about how abuse of drugs is killing horses and imperiling riders. Before more people and animals are hurt, we need to put a responsible national authority in charge of cleaning up racing. This is a sensible, bipartisan measure to restore trust in racing and protect lives."
The horseracing industry has a $10 billion annual economic impact and sustains about 380,000 jobs nationwide. Last year, over $10.8 billion was wagered on American horseracing, including $133 million for the Kentucky Derby. However, as the New York Times reported in 2012, doping undermines the safety and viability of the sport, and twenty-four horses die each week from racing injuries.
Under the new legislation, USADA would develop rules for permitted and prohibited substances and create anti-doping education, research, testing and adjudication programs for horseracing. It would also:
Put an end to race day medication;
Set a harmonized medication policy framework for all races with interstate simulcast wagering;
Require stiff penalties for cheating, including "one and done" and "three strikes, you're out" lifetime bans for the worst cases; and
Ensure racehorse drug administrations comply with veterinary ethics.
In previous years the lawmakers introduced similar legislation tasking the Federal Trade Commission to improve the sport. Their new approach, however, would enable USADA to act as the anti-doping body without amending the Interstate Horseracing Act or involving any federal agency or regulation. The legislation would not require any federal taxpayer funds. It would be financed by the industry racetracks, horsemen groups, breeders and owners through either a percentage of the betting handle or a series of fees. States or tracks that decline to adopt and adhere to USADAs rules and penalties would not be allowed to participate in interstate wagering, which accounts for 90 percent of total handle.