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Tonko Horseracing Safety Bill Passes in House

Bipartisan legislation would reform medication & track standards, protect equine athletes & jockeys

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Washington, September 29, 2020 | comments

WASHINGTON—Congressman Paul D. Tonko’s bipartisan national horse racing reform bill, H.R. 1754, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, passed the U.S. House of Representatives today. The bill has long been co-led by Congressman Andy Barr (R-KY) and would designate the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority to design and implement uniform national horse racing medication and racetrack safety standards.

“After nearly six years working to advance this bipartisan legislation to modernize horseracing in the United States, we are at long last rounding the final turn,” Congressman Tonko said. “Our Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act puts the health and well-being of our equine athletes and jockeys firmly at the center of the sport, and delivers commonsense medication and track safety standards that will lift this noble sport to higher standards of integrity and safety. These long overdue reforms will help restore public trust in the sport and put it on a path to a long and vital future, supporting countless jobs and driving economic activity in communities across our nation. I thank my longtime collaborator and friend, Congressman Barr, for leading with me in this effort to restore integrity to this sport of kings. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to advance their companion legislation without delay and deliver it swiftly to the President to sign into law.”

“With today’s HISA passage in the House, we continue our momentum and move one step closer toward historic reform for the horse racing industry,” said Congressman Barr.  “This legislation, developed through a highly deliberative and bipartisan process, will ensure the safety of our equine athletes and increase the popularity, public confidence, and international competitiveness of the sport.  I want to thank my House colleagues for supporting this legislation which will usher in a new era for this great Kentucky, and great American, industry.”

The bill approved by the House today also has companion Senate legislation introduced recently by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martha McSally (R-AZ), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). 

New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) President and CEO Dave O’Rourke: “NYRA has long supported a national approach to medication control and anti-doping across the sport of horse racing. The safety and welfare of the athletes competing at NYRA tracks is our highest priority, which is why NYRA supports the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act and urges quick consideration by the U.S. Senate.”

Staci Hancock, Managing Member of the Water Hay Oats Alliance: “The members of WHOA applaud Congressmen Paul Tonko and Andy Barr for their bipartisan leadership in working with all segments of our industry.  Today’s passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act marks a much anticipated and long awaited day for our horses and horse racing.  WHOA’s grassroots efforts have been focused on enacting legislation for drug free racing under the independent oversight and management of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). The passage of HISA in the House of Representatives today is an important milestone on the way to setting these reforms into law.”

Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund: “With 8.5 horses dying on average at the races every week, congressional intervention is imperative to protect these magnificent animals. In record time, Chairman Pallone, Reps. Tonko and Barr have led passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act on the House floor. We urge the Senate to swiftly pass this bill to end equine racehorse doping and increase track safety. As horses continue to race, we owe them every opportunity to cross the finish line healthy and intact for another day.” 

United States Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis T. Tygart: “The introduction of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act marks a historic moment for Thoroughbred horse racing, and USADA is honored and humbled to carry out the anti-doping responsibilities detailed in the Act, implementing uniform rules through our independent model in service of clean competition. As with Olympic sport, one set of rules, enforced independently and uniformly, is the bedrock of any meaningful anti-doping program. This game-changing, bipartisan legislation will protect the health and safety of equine athletes and provide clean competitors a level playing field.”

Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association President Dan Metzger: “Passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is in the best interests of owners and breeders, would enhance equine health and safety, and would bring much-needed uniformity to our industry.”

Doug O’Neill, owner of Doug O’Neill Racing Stable: “Racing needs the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act to create a vibrant national anti-doping system for Thoroughbred racing throughout the United States and to mandate a meaningful racetrack safety standards program for U.S. racetracks. Both will protect our equine athletes and provide superb integrity standards.”

Barry Irwin from Team Valor International: “Passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will bring a higher level of integrity and safety to horse racing. Having our sport contested on a level playing field with the aid of USADA is especially meaningful to me, and it’s something I’ve been promoting for more than 16 years.”

Trainer, Janet Elliot: “It is time for U.S. racing to join the rest of the world and enact uniform international rules and standards and abolish the use of race-day medication. Eliminating performance-enhancing drugs is imperative for the health and safety of our equine and human athletes.”

Joe Harper, CEO of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club: “Our sport needs the uniformity that the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) will provide. The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is unwavering in its commitment to the welfare of our human and equine athletes. Our goal is to ensure our sport is conducted at the highest levels of safety and integrity, and the medication and safety reforms within the HISA will help the industry meet and exceed that goal.”

Ted Kuster from Shawhan Place: “The leadership provided by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is a must for American racing to survive. Rules and regulations must be the same in all states, and this act will ensure that happens. I would like to thank Rep. Barr for his perseverance in getting this bill where it is today.”

Dr. Riddle from Rood & Riddle: “In addition to its emphasis on safety, fairness, and integrity, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act represents a step in the direction of nationwide uniformity and cooperation, which our industry greatly needs.” 

Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey: “I have had the good fortune to win the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, nine Breeders’ Cup races, four Travers stakes, and an Eclipse Award as the outstanding trainer in North America, so I know a little about U.S. horse racing. The HISA, which includes racetrack safety to further enhance the anti-doping program in the Horseracing Integrity Act, will bring meaningful standards to help protect Thoroughbred racehorses and to safeguard the integrity and future of our sport.”

Antony Beck President and CEO of Gainesway Farm: “As an owner and breeder, nothing is more important to me than the welfare of my horses. Horses are the heart of this industry, and they deserve our respect. There is no place in our sport for race-day medication, and the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will ensure our horses race medication-free.”

Cathy Liss, president of Animal Welfare Institute: “The senseless loss of life occurring on racetracks must stop now,” said Cathy Liss, president of AWI. “The Horseracing Integrity Act would provide much-needed oversight and directly improve the welfare of racehorses in the United States. We thank Reps. Tonko and Barr, as well as Sens. McConnell, Gillibrand, McSally, and Feinstein, for working to see this legislation to the finish line, and we urge the Senate to quickly send this bill to the president’s desk.”

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