Help Limit Drugging of Horses Used for Racing

ThoroughbredCongressman Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) have introduced H.R. 2012, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act. The bill would provide the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) with authority to clean up the sport and enforce anti-doping standards in races with simulcast wagering.

The Senate version, S. 973, was introduced by Sen. Tom Udall (D-CO).

“Doping is a serious problem in today’s horseracing industry.” said Congresswoman Schakowsky.

“[I]t’s important that we shed light on a scandal that is plaguing horse racing in America—doping,” said Congresswoman Eshoo. “This cruel and dangerous practice with race horses not only causes an average of 24 horses to drop dead every week, but it is still permitted by law in the U.S.”

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 to strengthen clean competition policies.

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. The Act would require USADA to issue rules prohibiting race day medication and clarifying those substances that cannot be administered to horses participating in a race as well as those that can. The bill provides USADA would implement ‘programs relating to anti-doping education, research, testing, and adjudication to prevent any horse participating in a horserace …from racing under the effect of any substance, method, or treatment that could affect the performance of the horse [(unless otherwise authorized by USADA)]”.

USADA would also be responsible for issuing regulations that would exclude from horseracing where simulcast betting is allowed any person that the USADA or a State racing commission determines—

(A) has administered a banned substance to a horse participating in a race (a one and done penalty); (B) has violated 3 or more times a rule relating to substances that can be administered to a horse participating in a horserace in the context of the veterinarian-client relationship or relating to a ban on race day medication (3 strikes and out penalty); or (C) is subject to a suspension from horseracing activities by any State racing commission.

There is a provision in the Act that would allow USADA to suspend a ban on racing if the offender assists USADA or other authorities in uncovering other violations.

There is also a phase in period for the use of furosemide if the horse is at least 3 years old, complies with the requirements of the document entitled ‘‘ARCI-011-020 Medications and Prohibited Substances’’ published by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, Inc.; and is within the context of a veterinarian client-patient relationship.

The move to put USADA in control of regulating medication and other substances given to race horses is good news for the horses.

The lack of effective regulation is shocking. Take the case of trainer Doug O’Neill that has drawn media attention. Doug O’Neill’s horse, I’ll Have Another, won the Kentucky Derby and 
the Preakness.

But take a
look at his other record, the one that shows he has multiple violations across
several states, 25 since 2005, particularly for doping his horses with drugs,
steroids or other substances that mask injuries and increase speed.
O’Neill was 
suspended in California for just 45 days and given a $15,000 fine for milk shaking a
horse in 2010. This means he is accused
of illegally giving a horse a mixture of bicarbonate soda, electrolytes and
sugar with the idea of enhancing performance by reducing fatigue. A blood test on his horse, Argenta, at the
August 25, 2010 race at Del Mar revealed elevated levels of TCO2, a measure of
carbon dioxide in a horse’s bloodstream, a sign of milkshaking. O”Neill has
previously been fined for milkshaking but he denies ever doing it, telling AP
reporter David Ginsburg, “everything will be fine…. I’m very confident
everything will be dropped.” For its
part, the California Horse Racing Board delayed the suspension until after the
Belmont Stakes. Again, the race, the win, the money, are more important than
the safety of the horses.

has reason to be confident that the labyrinth of state racing commissions,
controlled by the industry, will never stop him from racing no matter how many
times he may violate restrictions on drugs and other substances given to
horses. Attorneys for violators have been very successful in delaying hearings
and appeals so that there is virtually no disruption to their racing careers.

Also, look at 
trainer Rick Dutrow, Jr., for example. He was suspended Oct. 12, 2011 by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board for ten
years from racing in New York. The last violation
involved illegally giving butorphanol, a pain killer, to a horse at Aqueduct in
New York. Syringes containing Xylazine, another painkiller and tranquilizer,
 were found in his possession. His violations over the years had resulted in 64
sanctions in 9 states at 50 racetracks.

Yet, Dutrow is
currently working in racing in New York, training horses. Even with the suspension eventually goes into effect, nothing would 
stop Dutrow from training at tracks in other states.

Industry “Regulations”
the last few years the alphabet soup horse racing organizations, National Thoroughbred
Association (NTRA), the Jockey Club, the Association of Racing Commissioners
International (ARCI) and the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC),
have claimed they can “regulate” doping in the industry. They
have “model rules” which, of course, are voluntary and unenforceable.
is more, the ARCI model rules take a very limited view of “horse doping”. ARCI claimed in a Sep. 1,
2011 report, “DRUGS IN U.S. RACING – 2010 THE FACTS” that there were only 47
cases of samples tested in 2010 that could qualify for the term “horse
Only the
“non-therapeutic” use of anabolic steroids is prohibited, for example.
Violations are listed on the RMTC Recent Rulings website at

Use of what
 the DEA classifies as Schedule III drugs are not counted as doping under the
industry’s “model” rules. This would include anabolic steroids like
nandrolone and the drug clenbuterol. ARCI may also exclude “milk shaking”
(TCO2) violations!

The ARCI model
rules permit race day Lasix, a diuretic almost universally given to horses to
eliminate water weight. Bute, a painkiller, is administered like aspirin.
Flunxin, a popular Non-Steroid Anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) is also used to
mask injuries. The list goes on. (Some like Lasix or ACE, an anti-anxiety
medication, mean big money as well for the veterinarians and manufacturers.)

On top of
that, ARCI rules don’t count as doping the “overages” of
“therapeutic medication” that are Schedule III and IV drugs. It’s a simple matter to call a drug
“therapeutic” and then administer more than prescribed. And it would not be
illegal under the industry’s vision of regulating abuse of horses with drugs.

It should be
noted that state drug testing practices are as notoriously ineffective as their
penalties. The New York Times found, for
example, that New Mexico Racing Commission has found no bute positives
recently. NMRC admitted the Commission has not been testing for bute, a
commonly used painkiller, because of a limited budget. What else might not be currently tested for?

The use of
drugs and steroids to force horses to run with even severe injuries and push 
them to the point of dehydration and collapse is epidemic.- and virtually 

Congress has substantial power to demand changes that will
truly protect the horses and the wagering public who believe each race
consists of sound horses and an equal field. After all, horse racing
is about gambling dollars, and it is Congress that has permitted simulcast
betting across state lines pursuant to the Interstate Horse Racing 
Act, 15 U.S.C. §3001 et seq. And that has made horse racing a $40 billion a
year industry. Congress has also exempted internet gambling on horse
racing from restrictions on online gambling under the Unlawful Internet 
Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA), 31 U.S.C.§§5361-5367.

are substantial giveaways to an industry. If we plan to continue to support
horse racing in this way, then we should make sure this industry is not a 
front for animal cruelty, a fraud on the betting public who have no idea the
extent of drugs used to mask injuries and increase speed. Please support the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, H.R. 2012/S.B. 973.

Find your U.S. representative here. The House version has been assigned to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade. If your rep is on the Subcommittee, please call or write (letters or faxes are best) your rep and urge him or her to support H.R. 2012. If your rep is not on the Subcommittee, contact him or her anyway and urge him/her to contact Subcommittee members in support of the bill.

Find your two U.S. Senators here. The Senate version has been assigned to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. If your senator(s) are on the Committee, please call or write (letters or faxes are best) your senators and urge them to support H.R. 2012/S.B. 973. If neither of your senators is on the Committee, contact them anyway and urge them to contact Committee members in support of the bill, S.B. 973, to restrict drugging of horses used for racing.