The Horseracing Integrity Act: Could A Federal Agency Bring Change For A Troubled Industry?

By: Jordan Gilliam

            One of the major problems that the horseracing industry in the United States has faced is the lack of uniformity among the rules and regulations of the many racing jurisdictions.[i] Although efforts to create more uniform laws date back at least eighty-four years, there have been no major changes within the industry.[ii] There are currently thirty-eight different jurisdictions throughout the nation that implement different regulations and programs.[iii] This has been problematic, especially in regards to the issues involving drug testing and anti-doping programs.[iv] According to Terry Finley, CEO of West Point Thoroughbreds: “The current anti-doping structure … is the biggest threat to the future of our great game. It is unmanageable, indefensible, and unfair to our horses, owners, bettors, trainers, and our industry.”[v]

In response to these issues representatives Andy Barr of Kentucky and Paul Tonko of New York introduced the Horseracing Integrity Act (H.R. 2651), which would establish an “agency to oversee medication policy and enforcement in horse racing throughout the United States.”[vi] This agency, which would be called the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority, would work under the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which has worked hard to keep a number of sports free from performance enhancing drugs.[vii] Currently, 106 members of the House have cosponsored the bill.[viii] The Act has also garnered the support of some major groups in the industry, including the Water Hay Oats Alliance, Keeneland Association Inc., and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association.[ix] Despite this support, a number of people have failed to support this bill for a number of reasons. These reasons include fear of the impact of a scandal, failure of the board to appoint members that will be familiar with the horseracing industry and also the “no Lasix” clause included in the bill.[x]

Despite these fears, it is important to recognize the potential positive impact that this bill will have on the industry. As stated previously, the failure to implement uniform rules and regulations has been ineffective and has also harmed the industry.[xi] There is a serious problem with performance enhancing drugs in the industry; however, there is no governmental body that can enforce punishment for these issues.[xii] This new agency will be able to implement uniform rules around the nation and will also police the use of performance enhancement drugs.[xiii] These changes will both increase the integrity within the industry, and more importantly will protect the horses and jockeys.

It is also important to note that the bill plans to incorporate individuals within the industry to serve on the board.[xiv] The fear of having a board enforce policies without having actual knowledge of the issues within industry is legitimate. However, the bill calls for six individuals who represent the equine industry constituencies.[xv] This is important because the bill looks to include members who have expertise in anti-doping and medication, breeding, racetrack executives, veterinary research matters, training horses and jockeys.[xvi] This inclusion would help other members of the board understand the industry and how to incorporate their own expertise in anti-doping.

Although the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017 has not been passed, this legislation would have a positive impact on the horseracing industry. There are fears of potential scandals and the ways in which the USADA would handle such scandals, however, the incorporation of this agency would be beneficial for the sport.[xvii] It is important for the industry to consider the health of the horses as well as the jockeys and this administration could do so in a uniform manner.

[i] Press Release, Blood Horse, West Point's Finley Joins Water Hay Oats Alliance, (last visited March 7, 2018).

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id.

[iv] Id.

[v] Id.

[vi] Ray Paulick, Horseracing Integrity Act Gains Support Of 64 Trainers; Among Major Tracks, Churchill Downs Missing In Action, Paulick Report (Feb. 26, 2018), (last visited Mar 7, 2018).

[vii] Id.

[viii] Press Release, Paulick Report, Barr, Tonko Hopeful '2018 Will Be The Year The Horseracing Integrity Act Makes It To The Winner's Circle (Feb. 17, 2018), (last visited March 7, 2018).

[ix] Paulick, supra note vi.

[x] Id.

[xi] Id.

[xii] Barr, supra note viii.

[xiii] Paulick, supra note vi.

[xiv] Shawn Szeallie, Op/Ed Feedback: Shawn Smeallie, Thoroughbred Daily News (March 6, 2018), (last visited March 7, 2018).

[xv] Id.

[xvi] Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017, 115 H.R. 2651.

[xvii] Paulick, supra note vi.