11/19/2013 2:16PM

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief to testify at U.S. House subcommittee hearing

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A U.S. House subcommittee scheduled to conduct a hearing Thursday to discuss legislation that would require racetracks to fund an “independent anti-doping agency” to write and enforce the sport’s drug policies has called six witnesses, including Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which is expected to seek the contract to conduct the sport’s drug tests if the legislation passes.

Tygart will join four witnesses on the panel with ties to the racing industry, along with Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, an organization that has pressed racing to support anti-slaughter legislation and prohibit the race-day administration of furosemide, the anti-bleeding drug that is legal to administer in every jurisdiction in North America.

The four witnesses with racing ties are Jess Overton, former chairman of the Minnesota Racing Commission; Phil Hanrahan, chief executive of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which staunchly supports race-day furosemide use; Dr. Lawrence Soma, a researcher and drug-testing specialist at the University of Pennsylvania; and Sheila Lyons, a farm owner with a veterinary degree who was highly critical of medication use and the practices of racetrack veterinarians at a House subcommittee hearing to discuss the sport’s regulation in 2012.

Thursday’s hearing was called to discuss legislation introduced in May that would ban the race-day use of furosemide within two years of the bill’s enactment and appoint an unnamed anti-doping agency as the sport’s official drug-policy overseer. The bill requires racetracks to fund the agency before accepting interstate bets on their races.

Tygart, the USADA official, was the keynote speaker at The Jockey Club’s Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing in 2012, and he has since intimated that the USADA, a private, nonprofit company that is retained by the U.S. Olympic Committee to perform its drug tests, would be interested in conducting drug tests on horses. The Jockey Club supports efforts to ban the race-day use of furosemide.

Federal efforts to replace racing’s current state-by-state regulatory scheme have been launched several times over the past four years. Those efforts have never gone beyond the committee level, and hearings on specific legislation have been sparsely attended by committee members.

Thursday’s hearing was called by the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade.