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by Laura Allen of Animal Law Coalition
Racing Industry has Failed to Protect the Horses
Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) have introduced H.R. 1733/S.B. 886, the Interstate Horse Racing Improvement Act of 2011 which amends the Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978,15 U.S.C. 3001 et seq.) .
Under the 1978 Act, simulcast or offtrack betting was allowed, a very lucrative benefit for the horse racing industry.
There is no question the industry’s effort at self-regulation even with some new state laws, has simply failed to protect horses from abuse from the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs.
Now, Congress proposes to qualify the benefit bestowed under the 1978 Act by regulating racing to the extent necessary to rid the “sport” of these drugs.
“This weekend, the very best of horseracing will be on display at the Kentucky Derby. Yet, for too long, the safety of jockeys and equine athletes has been neglected for the pursuit of racing profits,” Rep. Whitfield said.
“The doping of injured horses and forcing them to compete is deplorable and must be stopped. Despite repeated promises from the racing industry to end this practice, meaningful action and oversight has yet to come forth. This legislation will bring much-needed reforms to an industry that supports thousands of jobs and is enjoyed by spectators nationwide.”
“Chemical warfare is rampant on American racetracks, and unlike other countries, our law does not reject this unscrupulous practice. A racehorse has no choice when it comes to using performance-enhancing drugs, but this legislation takes away that option from those who would subject these magnificent animals to such abuse for gambling profit. Those involved in horseracing will have to play by the rules or face getting kicked out of the sport,” Sen. Udall said.
What the bill does
The bill would prohibit anyone from (1) entering a horse in a race that is subject to an interstate off-track wager if the person knows the horse is under the influence of a performance-enhancing drug; or (2) knowingly providing a horse with a performance-enhancing drug if the horse , while under the influence of the drug, will participate in a race that is subject to an interstate off-track wager.
A host racing association could not conduct a horserace “that is the subject of an interstate off-track wager” unless the host racing association has a policy in place that (1) bans racing of horses that have been given performance enhancing drugs, (2) also bans persons who provide horses that have been given these drugs, and (3) requires third party testing of the first place horse and another horse chosen at random. Test results would be reported to the Federal Trade Commission or a host racing commission with which the FTC has entered into an agreement to handle enforcement. The host must also have minimum penalties for those caught in violation.
Three Strikes – You’re Out
A first violation would mean a $5,000 civil fine and a minimum 6 months suspension from racing where there is interstate offtrack betting; a second violation would mean a $20,000 civil fine and a suspension of at least 1 year; and a 3rd violation would mean a $50,000 civil fine and a permanent ban from horseracing where there is interstate offtrack betting.
The suspension or permanent ban would mean the violator could not participate in any activities including as a spectator at a race where there is interstate offtrack betting.
It would not matter that the violations were at different tracks or in different states. Each violation regardless of where it occurred would count towards the permanent ban.
Horses given performance enhancing drugs would also be ineligible to race for at least 6 months on a first offense, a minimum of 1 year for a second violation and at least 2 years for each subsequent violation.
A violation would also be considered an unfair or deceptive trade practice, and the FTC would have enforcement authority unless there was an agreement for a state or host racing commission to handle that. Even then, the FTC could still step in and enforce these provisions if the host racing commission does not adequately do so. The FTC would also monitor and handle enforcement with respect to violations occurring in multiple states and in connection with non-profits.
The bill further creates a private right of action. Organizations or individuals with standing could bring an action for injunction or other relief to enforce these provisions and even obtain damages or restitution and attorney’s fees.
Performance Enhancing Drugs
H.R. 1733/S.B. 886 defines performance enhancing drug to mean (1) any substance capable of affecting the performance of a horse at any time by acting on the nervous system, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, digestive system, urinary system, reproductive system, musculoskeletal system, blood system, immune system (other than licensed vaccines against infectious agents), or endocrine system of the horse ; and
(2) includes the substances listed in the Alphabetized Listing of Drugs in the January 2010 revision of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, Inc., publication entitled `Uniform Classification Guidelines for Foreign Substances’.” For more on the ARCI publication….
Unlike other countries, racing jurisdictions in the United States allow horses to be medicated on race day. And there are numerous examples of trainers who have violated medication rules multiple times, seemingly with impunity. A recent Racing Commissioners International letter notes that one trainer has been sanctioned at least 64 times in nine different states for various rule violations, including numerous violations of drug rules. According to the New York Times, only two of the top 20 trainers in the United States (by purses won) have never been cited for a medication violation.
The Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act is the first Congressional attempt to ban doping in horseracing since similar legislation was considered in the 1980s.