The Consumer Protection Commerce Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee has scheduled a hearing for this morning to discuss issues related to horse racing and a bill that would create a federal framework to regulate the sport in the United States.
Momentum behind this legislation has been steadily increasing. Currently, the legislation, the Horseracing Integrity Act, has received 226 co-sponsors in the House, which represents a majority. It is a horse-first bill that would create a private, independent national Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority (HADA) responsible for developing and administering a strict anti-doping and medication control program.
HADA, under the oversight of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and governed by a board of six individuals with deep racing expertise and seven individuals from USADA, would create a set of uniform anti-doping rules, including lists of permitted and prohibited substances and methods in line with international anti-doping standards and veterinarian ethical standards.
It is important to point out that, while federal legislation is creating this new entity, all aspects of the program are run by USADA, which is a private, independent, non-profit corporation.
Despite what some critics mistakenly assert, there is no federal bureaucracy that will run the Thoroughbred anti-doping and medication control program. In fact, it is important to note that in 2001, USADA was recognized by the U.S. Congress as the official anti-doping agency for Olympic, Pan American and Paralympic sport in the U.S.
USADA is at the forefront of anti-doping and medication control for sport in America.
Here is a letter I submitted for review by the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee ahead of today’s hearing.
To: Chairman Jan Schakowsky, Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs and Commerce
Thank you for the opportunity to share my support for HR 1754, the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019, with this U.S. House Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs and Commerce.
My name is Charles Hayward. My senior management experience in Thoroughbred racing began when I was hired as the President and CEO of the Daily Racing Form (DRF) in September 1998. The DRF is the most prominent daily Thoroughbred racing newspaper and website in North America and features statistical information and articles for wagering customers, owners, breeders and racing industry participants.
In this position, I traveled throughout North America meeting with racetracks operators, wagering customers, jockeys, horse owners, breeders and state regulatory racing commissions from the most prominent racing states. In May of 2004, I left the DRF to accept the position as President and CEO of the New York Racing Association (NYRA), the most prominent and largest racing association in the U.S. NYRA operated Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.
NYRA races run at these three New York tracks generate over 20 percent of the total annual wagering activity of all racetracks in the U.S. I worked very closely with our state regulatory agency, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, for my entire seven years working at NYRA.
In the spring of 2012, I left the NYRA, to join two partners in launching Thoroughbred Racing Commentary (thoroughbredracing.com), a journalistic website that covers Thoroughbred racing, breeding and ownership issues in major racing jurisdictions around the world with offices in London and New York, where I live.
First, I would like to thank all members of your committee for your interest and work that you have undertaken on behalf of the Thoroughbred breeding and racing industry.
Forward-looking racing industry participants have been working diligently with the committees of the House of Representatives since the introduction of the original bill, HR 3084, the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015. In sum, as I am sure that you have heard and now understand that the state regulatory decentralized structure is broken both financially and morally and frankly rarely promotes the goals and interests of the U.S. Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry.
Working with a broad range of Thoroughbred industry participants, there has been much progress made in organizing a series of important initiatives which has members of the industry working closely together in a way that has not occurred in the past, much to the detriment of the industry and most importantly, the horses.
The best forward-looking work product that has come from the collaborative efforts of the industry was in March 2019, when the Jockey Club published Vision 2025, which ties directly to the goals and structure set out in the Horseracing Integrity Act. Here is a link to that report. The document sets out a clear situational analysis and lays out a series of specific detailed reforms that are needed to correct our failing regulatory system for Thoroughbred racing.
The first page of the document opens like this:
The Current System
Does Not Work
“Racing’s current state-by-state structure for rule promulgation, passage and enforcement makes it impossible for a level playing field to exist across the country and too easy for Thoroughbreds to be subject to the nefarious actions of cheaters who are trying to beat the systems in each state and stay a step ahead of regulators and laboratories. From every angle, racing is failing to adequately regulate itself.”
Here is a list of the rest of the topics in this opening chapter:
- The rule-making process is slow
- Inadequate out-of-competition testing
- No current blind testing to ensure that laboratories are operating at the same level
- Insufficient research
- No national investigative arm
- Lack of uniformity
- International rules need to be adopted
Opponents may not want to admit it, but the majority of those involved in horse racing know that the current system is not working.
There are many well-thought-out features of the current proposed legislation that will immediately improve the integrity of the sport. Furthermore, this important legislation will result in significant preventive measures in the care that the industry’s equine athletes will receive.
I am fully convinced that the Horseracing Integrity Act provides Thoroughbred racing with the opportunity to gain unprecedented knowledge, science and experience that will allow the racing industry to take back the sport from the cheaters.
There is no better strategic partner for Thoroughbred racing in the United States than the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). This organization was founded and operates on the assumption that it is essential that there is a level playing field in sport. Take a very hard look at the misguided priorities that the patchwork of individual state regulatory racing boards currently employ. These state agencies do not recognize that they have significant problems, and, even if they did, they would not have the ability or resolve to fix them.
Almost 20 years ago, in 2001, USADA was recognized by the U.S. Congress as the official anti-doping agency for Olympic, Pan American and Paralympic sport in the U.S. It is important for racing industry participants to note that USADA has been in the anti-doping business for almost two decades.
Its status and independence from the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) is an exception to the norm in sport in the U.S. Most professional U.S. sport organizations (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) manage the anti-doping of their own sports. USADA’s proposed independence from the current system in Thoroughbred racing, which involves the racetracks, horsemen, owners, breeders and regulators, will provide an extremely important component of this legislation by overhauling a completely dysfunctional medication, testing and penalty structure.
One of the major criticisms that has been directed toward USADA in this legislation is that they know nothing about the Thoroughbred racing industry.
Granted, the sophisticated USADA team may not know what a ‘furlong pole’ is. (The pole marks off every eighth of a mile on a racetrack.) However, I will guarantee you that they do know in great detail about all the illegal performance-enhancing drugs that are being used frequently at racetracks across America today and are fully capable of implementing a disciplined program to eliminate these illegal drugs from the industry.
The Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry has made substantial contributions to the fine traditions of American culture and sport throughout our history. HR 1754 is in the best interests of every human and equine stakeholder in the industry.
I thank all members of this committee for your interest and support of this important legislation.