11/15/2013 12:40PM

House committee to hear drug enforcement proposal

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A U.S. House committee has scheduled a hearing for Nov. 21 to discuss a bill that would give a single agency the power to enforce the sport’s drug-testing rules in all U.S. racing jurisdictions, the committee announced Thursday.

The hearing will be the third in the past two years held by a federal committee to discuss the potential replacement of the current state-by-state regulation of horse racing, a concept that has failed to gain traction in the legislature in the past. The hearing will be held by the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, whose 54 members include Ed Whitfield, a Republican of Kentucky who has often said he supports the federal regulation of racing to address criticisms of the sport’s medication policies and their enforcement.

Whitfield is a co-sponsor of a bill called the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2013 that would give “an independent anti-doping organization” the power to conduct drug tests on horses and enforce medication policies. The bill, which was introduced in May, would also prohibit the raceday use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide for any horse younger than 3 years old for a period of two years after the legislation passes, and would thereafter ban the use of any drug within 24 hours of a race.

The legislation also would require racetracks to reach an agreement with the enforcement agency before accepting bets on their races. According to the bill, “the independent anti-doping organization . . . shall ensure that all of the costs incurred by the organization in carrying out [its duties] under this Act are defrayed pursuant” to the agreements.

A release from the committee said that witnesses will be announced at a later date.

Previous efforts to overhaul the regulation of racing have never gone beyond the committee level, and hearings on the subject have been sparsely attended by committee members. Many racing organizations object to the federal regulation of racing, but many of those organizations, such as state racing commissions, have vested interests in retaining the status quo.

Some influential racing organizations have sought federal guidance on the regulation of racing, in large part because of opposition to the raceday use of furosemide, which is legal in all North American racing jurisdictions but prohibited in most foreign countries.

In August, Jockey Club chairman Ogden Mills Phipps said that the organization would seek federal regulation of racing if states did not embrace an ongoing effort to adopt uniform rules on medications and stiffer penalties for medication violations. Since then, nine states have adopted the rules.