While the Jockeys' Guild agrees that improved uniform regulation of equine medication and drug testing is needed in the sport, the organization has too many concerns with the Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2017 to support the legislation.
The Guild released a statement Sept. 27 outlining the board's opinion of the bill that would give the United States Anti-Doping Agency oversight of the sport's equine medication policies and drug testing.
"The Guild agrees that the proposed Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2017 has many needed elements that will standardize and improve uniform regulation of equine medication in our industry, and, in general, is supportive of a legislative solution," the Guild said in the statement.
But the statement went on to list concerns the Guild has about the bill, which include:
- The Guild is opposed to the elimination of Lasix on race day because we believe it is necessary for the safety of both the horse and the rider. The Guild believes that until there is a consensus reached within the industry that the elimination of Lasix on race day is in the best interest of the horse, it should not be prohibited. In addition, the Guild strongly suggests that all racing jurisdictions adopt rules requiring the administration of Lasix on race day be done by a licensed, independent third party.
- The Guild agrees that state-of-the-art testing and the expansion of out-of-competition testing is critical to provide a safe and level playing field and enhance the integrity of our industry. The Guild has concerns that extra costs for the proposed anti-doping agency will place severe burdens on race tracks and owners, especially at smaller tracks where many jockeys began their careers and where many of our members ride. The Guild urges more discussion on the costs of the proposed legislation and how it may be productively allocated within existing revenue sources.
- The Guild has long been a strong proponent for the Racing Medication Testing Consortium (RMTC), and notes its significant contribution to the racing industry, in particular the establishment of the National Uniform Medication Programs and its campaign for those rules to be uniformly adopted by the states. In that regard, we feel that the RMTC must continue to have a major role moving forward under any federal legislation and would urge amendments to the legislation that would provide the RMTC with the same significant status it enjoys today.
- The Guild believes that in many areas, outside of the regulation of medication in racing, ARCI and the various state racing commissions should have a unified set of rules and regulations coordinated by the ARCI. Any federal legislation should enhance the role played by ARCI in coordinating these regulations.
- The Guild believes that the horse racing industry should develop a consensus on the governance of the new entity created by the HRIA, with more general rights granted to the industry on matters of the overall performance of the new anti-doping agency. The Guild believes that the federal government review of the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority (HAMCA) should be conducted at the third anniversary of the founding of the organization, not the fifth anniversary as the legislation provides. Furthermore, the Guild, while respecting the no-conflict governance structure, wishes to see the legislation amended to specifically provide for a board seat for the direct nominee of the Jockeys' Guild.
The Guild release provided background on how it reached its opinion on the bill. That part of the release read:
"The Jockeys' Guild board of directors, composed of leading Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse jockeys selected by their peers, supports the view that there needs to be a change to better protect the integrity of our industry and promote the level playing field that all members of the racing community desire and deserve.
"The Board spent an extensive amount of time, including multiple discussions with industry participants such as The Jockey Club, National Horsemen's Benevolent Protective Association, Association of Racing Commissioners International, as well as others, discussing the proposed legislation and considering the most appropriate position for all of the Guild's members.
"It is always the position of the Guild that the safety of the jockeys, as well as the horses, shall always be the first priority. Additionally, the Board took into consideration the possible impact of the adoption of such legislation on the entire industry, including the horsemen and owners, as well as the regulators and the racetracks."
The Guild added that it looks forward to working with the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, as well as legislative leaders, to develop the best program of medication control for the horse racing industry.