Whether members of Congress address legislation tied to medication and drug testing in horse racing remains to be seen, but the Thoroughbred industry appears to be more and more unwilling to take the chance it won't happen.
The Jockey Club indicated as much during its Round Table conference Aug. 11 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., with a warning from its chairman and a recommendation that all racing jurisdictions in the United States at least pledge to adopt the National Uniform Medication Program.
Jockey Club chairman Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps said the fact only about 12 racing jurisdictions have committed to the model rules proves uniformity in medication hasn't been achieved.
"We know congressional leaders are frustrated with the speed of our reforms," Phipps said. "The facts are clear: If we care about the future of our sport and equine athletes, they cannot be stained by the taint of drugs."
Jockey Club executive vice president and executive director Matt Iuliano said the organization by the end of this year would like to know where the industry stands. The model medication and penalty rules have passed the boards of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and Association of Racing Commissioners International, but now they must be approved state by state.
"To memorialize our common goal of uniform medication rules, penalties and laboratory standards as a single national purpose, the Thoroughbred Safety Committee calls for all U.S. racing regulatory authorities to adopt the National Uniform Medication Program by Jan. 1, 2014," Iuliano said. "In recognition of those jurisdictions that may require a lengthier legislative process, we would ask they formally express their commitment to adopt the National Uniform Medication Program by Jan. 1, 2014."
The program bans all race-day drugs except furosemide (Salix or Lasix); contains a list of 24 controlled therapeutic substances, along with their withdrawal times and testing threshold levels; and creates a point system for drug violations, including fines and suspensions.
Previous attempts at federal regulation of equine medication have failed for a number of reasons, including disagreement within the racing industry over the actual language of bills and opposition to any attempt to rewrite the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978. The most recent bill, called the "Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act," places regulation of drugs under the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
A draft bill released by Democratic New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall in May doesn't mention the IHA, but it states any host racing association can engage in interstate pari-mutuel wagering only with consent from the USADA. There is no explanation of how that would work in light of existing federal law—the IHA and the Wire Act.
Major industry groups oppose federal intervention; RCI earlier this year said any bill that doesn't take into account use of therapeutic drugs could be problematic for racing and undermine progress on model rules. Even with Phipps' comments, The Jockey Club would clearly prefer widespread adoption of the National Uniform Medication Program.