06/11/2008 12:00AM

House subcommittee slates hearing on sport


A federal House subcommittee that has focused on the use of drugs in sports has scheduled a hearing for June 19 to examine the racing industry's existing regulations and to consider the intervention of the federal government in the sport.

Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky who is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, said Wednesday in an interview the hearing will address a range of topics that primarily deal with the patchwork of rules governing the sport in the 38 major U.S. racing jurisdictions.

"The whole purpose of the hearing is to look at the lack of transparency, the lack of uniform rules, and the lack of ability to enforce anything on a national level," Whitfield said.

Several racing officials, who did not want to comment in advance of a specific announcement from the subcommittee, said that subcommittee staff have been meeting with racing officials for a week to discuss plans for the hearing.

On Wednesday, the subcommittee released a witness list that includes two panels of racing officials. The first panel includes Richard Shapiro, the chairman of the California Horse Racing Board; Arthur Hancock III, the owner of Stone Farm outside Lexington, Ky.; Jess Jackson, the owner of Stonestreet Stables; Randy Moss, the ESPN analyst; Alan Marzelli, president of the Jockey Club; and trainers Jack Van Berg and Rick Dutrow.

The second panel includes Susan Stover, the director of a veterinary research laboratory at the University of California at Davis; Larry Soma, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center; Dr. Mary Scollay, the Florida state veterinarian who has been hired as the equine medical director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority; Dr. Wayne McIlwraith of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University; and Alex Waldrop, the chief executive officer of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

Some on the witness list said Wednesday they had yet to be formally notified to appear at the hearing. Shapiro said Wednesday that he had not yet received a formal invitation. The hearing is a "reaction to what's happening in the industry and with the breed," Shapiro said, referencing the recent high-profile breakdowns of Eight Belles, George Washington, and Barbaro.

"Anytime we can present our case and people are interested in hearing what we have to say, I'm for it," Shapiro said. "I welcome the discussion."

The subcommittee said the hearing would be titled, "Breeding, Drugs, and Breakdowns: The State of Thoroughbred Horseracing and the Welfare of the Thoroughbred Racehorse."

In May, the subcommittee sent letters to five racing officials seeking information on drug use, injuries, and breeding practices. They were Bob Evans, the chief executive of Churchill Downs Inc.; Charles Hayward, the chief executive of the New York Racing Association; Ed Martin, the president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International; Ogden Mills Phipps, the chairman of the Jockey Club; and Frank Stronach, the chairman of Magna Entertainment Corp.

The subcommittee earlier this year held a hearing on drug use in sports in which Waldrop testified regarding the use of anabolic steroids in horse racing. Horse racing was a minor component of the hearing, which focused principally on the use of steroids in baseball, basketball, football, and the Olympics.

Most horse racing officials are uneasy with the prospect of federal regulation of the sport, preferring to allow states to set racing rules. Whitfield has indicated that he is willing to use the federal Interstate Horseracing Act - a 1978 law that enabled simulcasting across state lines - to fund federal regulation of the sport by diverting proceeds from simulcasting revenues. The act could also be amended to prohibit racetracks from conducting interstate simulcasting unless the tracks complied with federal rules, Whitfield has said.