March 1, 2016
Tom LaMarra, Blood-Horse

Federal legislation that would grant the United States Anti-Doping Agency oversight of equine medication policy, testing, and enforcement has picked up additional sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives, officials said March 14.

The Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015 was introduced last June by U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko, a New York Democrat, and Andy Barr, a Kentucky Republican. It now has 24 co-sponsors, according to the official congressional website.

The legislation, which would create the non-profit Thoroughbred Horseracing Anti-Doping Agency and is being pushed by the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, has yet to be heard in committee, though Tonko indicated he’s pushing for a hearing.

“I am energized to see this critical, bipartisan legislation approach 25 co-sponsors,” Tonko said in a release. “I look forward to working with Congressman Barr to push this closer to the finish line. I will also continue to stress the importance of this legislation to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and advocate for a hearing on this issue.”

The bill last July was sent to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade.

According to the coalition, the following House members joined the effort in the first two months of this year:  Ohio Republican Steve Stivers; Indiana Republican Luke Messer; Illinois Republican Rodney Davis; Florida Republican Carlos Curbelo; Democrat Carolyn Maloney and Republican Chris Collins of New York; and Democrat Tony Cardenas and Republican Duncan Hunter of California.

Tonko noted New York has almost one-third of the total 24 co-sponsors.

Barr said the additional sponsors are “evidence of the growing support for uniform medication standards which will enhance the safety and integrity of Thoroughbred horse racing in America.”

The coalition has said a Senate version of the bill is forthcoming, and that the language could be altered to include all racing breeds, not just Thoroughbreds.

The Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act of 2015, introduced by Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Pitts and New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall, has eight co-sponsors, according to the congressional website. The bill would place USADA in charge of equine medication but not create an industry oversight board and also ban use of race-day furosemide, also called Lasix or Salix.

The two congressmen last April also introduced legislation that would repeal the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978. The measure was largely panned by the pari-mutuel racing industry.

The fact three bills were introduced “caused debate back and forth,” American Horse Council president Jay Hickey said in late February. He noted the AHC, which covers all equine breeds, hasn’t taken a position on any medication bill because of a lack of consensus thus far.

Hickey also said the overall climate in Washington, D.C., coupled with it being a presidential election year, makes passage of any legislation difficult, “even if it might be necessary” legislation.