By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
Today marks a critical turning point for thoroughbred racehorse safety, and it comes just in time for the upcoming Triple Crown season. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority just launched its Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program, ushering in a new era of safety and welfare for racehorses and increased accountability for those who work with them. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is a federal law that, for the first time, standardizes medication and safety protocols in horse racing across the country, and the programs under this law help to implement much-needed change in the industry. The launch of the ADMC Program follows last summer’s implementation of the Racetrack Safety Program and is the final set of regulations governing the sport under the new national program created by the HISA.
We have been at the forefront of advocating for the protection of racehorses for many years and were the lead animal welfare organization to push for passage of the HISA. We have worked tirelessly with the Jockey Club and other racing industry professionals on the bill and continue to work with industry professionals, including on our HSUS National Horseracing Advisory Council, to develop strategies that continue to emphasize the well-being of racehorses.
The ADMC Program is administered by a new independent enforcement agency, the Horseracing Integrity & Welfare Unit, and it establishes a national, uniform system for drug testing and enforcement that includes centralized testing and laboratory accreditation with uniform penalties for violations. One significant change in the new rules is the substantial increase in out-of-competition testing. This means that horses can be tested for drugs at any time, not just on race day. This measure is critical because some drugs can stay in a horse’s system for days or even weeks, making it possible for trainers to administer them outside of race day.
The program also includes harsher penalties for banned substances, an investigations unit to focus on cheaters and an anonymous whistleblower platform. Additionally, it addresses the use of same-day race medications and methods and implements national reporting of methods and medications. Plus, pre-race veterinary exams are now mandatory and include greater oversight.
Violations under the ADMC Program cover both banned substances and methods as well as controlled medications and methods, with harsher penalties for banned anti-doping rule violations specifically targeting more egregious violations.
Unfortunately, the ADMC Program is facing resistance from those in the industry who wish to continue doping horses, which undermines national reform and regulation efforts. The Racetrack Safety Program, which has been in effect since last summer, has been more widely accepted. This program enhances horse and rider safety through operational safety rules, national racetrack accreditation standards, enhanced veterinary oversight, surface maintenance and testing requirements and regulation of riding crop use, among other measures. The ADMC Program is a much-needed complement to these standards. We are committed to monitoring the implementation of the HISA and measuring its impact on racehorse welfare and safety. We are currently working with our HSUS National Horseracing Advisory Council to develop metrics to track the welfare of horses and measure the impact of the HISA. We believe that the HISA is a gamechanger for horseracing and are proud to be a part of this historic effort.
Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.