Updated on 07/09/2012 4:28PM

Senate committee schedules medication hearing


The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has scheduled a hearing on Thursday in Washington, D.C., to discuss “the prevalence and use of medication and performance-enhancing drugs in horse racing,” according to a notice the committee posted last week.

Late on Monday, the committee released a witness list for the hearing. The list includes Barry Irwin, the chief executive of Team Valor; Kent Stirling, the chairman of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association’s medication committee; Jeffrey Gural, the owner of several New York harness tracks and casinos; Jim Gagliano, the president of the Jockey Club; Matthew Witman, the national director of the American Quarter Horse Association; Marc Paulhus, a former vice president of the Humane Society; Ed Martin, the president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International; and Dr. Shelia Lyons, the founder of the American College of Veterinary Sports and Rehabilitation.

Irwin, an outspoken critic of raceday medication and the current state of racing regulation, said that he had prepared a 3,600-word commentary for the hearing and would summarize the commentary’s content during a five-minute speaking allotment.

“It’s basically what I’ve been saying all along,” Irwin said. He added that he “would like to see the federal government get involved in racing, because I don’t think the states have been doing a very good job with that.”

The hearing will follow by three months a congressional hearing conducted by a subcommittee of the Senate committee’s House of Representatives counterpart. That hearing, which was held in Pennsylvania and attended by five members of the 27-member Subcommittee on Health, was stacked with witnesses who advocated for federal regulation of horse racing, which is currently regulated on a state-by-state basis.

A member of the Senate Committee, Sen. Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, has introduced legislation that would require lifetime bans for trainers whose horses test positive three times for “performance-enhancing medications” and that would put testing for medications under the purview of the federal government. The bill, which is viewed warily by many organizations in racing, does not define “performance-enhancing” medications.

The hearing will be held against a backdrop of a contentious debate in racing over the raceday use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide, a diuretic. Many national racing organizations representing breeders and some owners have pushed for a ban on the raceday use of the drug, but horsemen’s groups representing both trainers and owners have resisted the effort.