Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015: A Step Forward, But In The Right Direction?

By: Elizabeth Beal

The current state of uniform regulation in horse racing for performance-enhancing drugs or, rather, the lack thereof, substantially contributes to the negative perception of the sport.[i] Even in equestrian sports such as dressage, jumping, and eventing, doping is considered a “crisis,” also contributing to a poor reputation.[ii] Notably, the lack of uniformity has also impaired interstate commerce and undermined public confidence in the sport.[iii]

The use of performance-enhancing drugs is an avidly discussed crisis in the horse racing business.[iv] With the introduction of the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015, Congressman Andy Barr (R-KY) and Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) seek to uniformly regulate the use of performance-enhancing drugs in horseracing rather than leave regulation to each individual state. However, this bill may prove to be not helpful to the industry at all.

The Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015 would establish an independent, non-governmental, anti-doping authority charged with the responsibility of implementing a national uniform medication program with input from the thoroughbred industry.[v] The Association of Racing Commissioners International opposes such legislation, stating that putting a regulatory function in the hands of private individuals would shield racing regulatory authority from public accountability.[vi] Essentially, regulatory power would be given to those who have little, to no experience with equine welfare and medication.

However, another leader in the equine industry, The Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, supports the Barr-Tonko Bill, even calling it a “common sense” piece of legislation for the equine business.[vii] The Coalition applauds the uniformity that the Barr-Tonko Bill will bring to the horseracing business, as well as the heightened level of protection it would provide to all athletes involved.[viii]

Understandably, uniform regulations to better protect horses and jockeys alike would only improve the horse racing industry’s reputation, as well as ensure safer racing conditions for horses. However, there is something to be said about letting a private body, without knowledge of equine medication and horse racing, regulate drug testing in the sport. The bill may have great intentions, but the means of regulating equine drug testing may pose more problems that it seeks to solve by placing all responsibility in private hands. Perhaps using a private entity more specialized in equine medicine and horse racing may be the best option. However, this bill is a positive step towards the decline of doping in the horse business, and uniformity in doing so.

[i] The Horseracing Industry: Drugs, Deception, and Death, PETA, (last visited Sept. 22, 2015).

[ii] John T. Wendt, The Crisis of Doping In Equestrian Sport, 27 Ent. & Sports Law. 10, 13 (2009).

[iii] ‘Common Sense Legislation’: Barr, Tonko Introduce Thoroughbred Horseback Integrity Act of 2015, Paulick Report (July 16, 2015), [hereinafter Paulick Report].

[iv] See Sid Gustafson, About Those Steroids and Big Brown, The New York Times (June 10, 2008, 8:02 AM)

[v] Paulick Report, supra note iii.

[vi] Id.

[vii] Id.

[viii] Id.