The budding Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority on Thursday released a draft of proposed anti-doping and drug control rules designed to bring uniformity to a sport that has operated for years under patchwork rules in 38 racing states.
Since July, HISA has been working with the US Anti-Doping Agency to develop rules that are now open to public comment, including from those in the racing industry.
On December 6, the proposed rules go to the Federal Trade Commission for further public comment and FTC approval. If approved by the FTC and HISA, the rules will take effect on July 1st.
The biggest changes involve applying the rules uniformly in all race states and changing the way violations are handled.
“There would no longer be a myriad of different scenarios that question the whole system and its efficiency,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a video interview.
According to the rules, the anti-bleeding drug Lasix would be banned on race day in all 2-year and stakes races, as well as other races. Last week, all 14 races at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships were run without Lasix for the first time.
Primary substances, including anabolic steroids and erythropoietin (EPO), which can increase red blood cells and increase aerobic capacity, will be banned at all times.
Such secondary substances as anti-inflammatory drugs and supplements would be banned on race day. Up to 48 hours before a race, horses could only get water, hay and oats. From midnight on race day, no banned substance could be detected.
According to the rules, a positive test, use or possession of a primary substance will be punished with a suspension of up to two years or up to four years if there were aggravating circumstances or another violation within 10 years. A life sentence can be imposed for a third or more offenses within 10 years.
A positive test, use or possession of a secondary substance can result in a penalty of up to 30 days suspension and a fine. It can be extended up to two years if there were aggravating circumstances or a fourth or more infringement of this type within five years.
“This is one of the most important steps in strengthening a successful future for horse racing in the United States,” said Tessa Muir, Director of USADA’s Equestrian Program.
Like human athletes, horses could be tested anywhere and anytime without prior notice until they permanently withdraw from racing.
Failure to inform HISA of a horse’s whereabouts may result in a penalty of up to one year. Still evolving is technology that can track a horse’s whereabouts, especially when it gets a longer break from racing.
“It’s a hassle and a burden for people, and we understand that,” Tygart said, adding that “the burden is nowhere near what our human athletes have to go through.”
Evasion, manipulation, administration of a primary substance, trafficking, complicity and retaliation can result in a penalty of up to two years. Failure to cooperate and administration of a secondary drug will be punished with a suspension of up to 30 days and a fine.
Horses can also be punished. Any violation of race day will result in their automatic disqualification.
Owners, trainers and veterinarians will be trained on the rules through a combination of online and personal training. Coaches would be required to register with HISA.
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act became law in January last year and established the authority to enforce the legislation.
Opponents have filed lawsuits in Kentucky and Texas to prevent the action from being carried out.
“We are not blind to the fact that there have been a few who never wanted the legislation to be passed and fought it with beaks and claws. It has unfortunately been a waste of precious time and resources,” Tygart said.
“You would hope that in the end we could prove to them that this is the right thing to do. We will not let those who are bound by the status quo or fear of change prevent this industry from developing. Long-term industry viability term is at stake. “