Updated on 05/01/2013 4:00PM

Bill would ban raceday medication and turn enforcement over to U.S. doping agency


Three federal legislators plan to introduce a bill next week that would require the horse racing industry to provide funding to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to administer the sport’s drug-testing and enforcement policies and that would ban the use of all raceday drugs, including the anti-bleeding medication furosemide.

Sen. Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico; Rep. Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania; and Rep. Ed Whitfield, Republican of Kentucky, will co-sponsor the bill, a release from Udall’s office said. It was unclear when the legislation would be introduced, if ever: The release called the bill a “draft.” Representatives of Udall and Pitts did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment or requests to see a draft.

Introduction of a bill that would grant some kind of federal authority over the regulation of racing has become a rite of spring over the past several years as racing’s critics have mounted aggressive campaigns raising concerns about the sport’s medication rules and enforcement. Previous efforts, however, have gone nowhere, in part because of resistance from the industry and in part because of reluctance by federal legislators, especially conservatives, to embrace efforts to expand the role of government.

Under the bill, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, a private, non-profit company that conducts drug testing for the U.S. Olympic organization, would “develop rules for permitted and prohibited substances and create anti-doping education, research, testing, and adjudication programs for racing,” the Udall release said. The organization also would “put an end to raceday medication,” which would mean the ban of the use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide, also known as Lasix, a proposal that is sure to draw opposition from leading horsemen’s organizations. The agency was instrumental in bringing doping charges against U.S. cyclist Lance Armstrong, who has admitted using performance-enhancing drugs.

Drug-testing programs are currently funded by individual state racing commissions, which often receive their funding from a small slice of the betting handle and the revenues generated by licensing fees. Many state racing commissions also receive funding from the state’s overall budget.

The bill would be introduced at a time when many racing organizations are already attempting to align medication rules among all 38 racing jurisdictions in the United States. So far, eight states, all in the Northeast or mid-Atlantic, have pledged to adopt a model set of rules governing legal and illegal drugs to go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, and more states are expected to join the effort later this year.

The legislative proposal is expected to face resistance from many states and their testing laboratories, considering the bill would take authority away from the states and divert funding for the testing laboratories to the USADA. In addition, many racing organizations that have worked on the latest reform efforts over the past several years may take exception to a federal effort seeking a similar goal.

The chief executive of the USADA is Travis Tygart, who gave the keynote address at last August’s Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing, an annual conclave put on by the Jockey Club. The Jockey Club has been pushing racing organizations to support efforts to align racing rules among jurisdictions and stiffen penalties for violations of the sport’s medication rules.

Bob Curran, a Jockey Club spokesman, said that the organization played no role in drafting the legislation.

In a statement, James Gagliano, the Jockey Club’s president, said that the organization planned to review the legislation. The statement also said that the organization “is encouraged by the substantial progress being made in medication reform” by the states and associations seeking to adopt uniform rules.

A previous version of this article misstated the state Sen. Tom Udall represents. It is New Mexico, not Pennsylvania.