By Julian Hattem - 11/21/13 11:42 AM EST
Lawmakers in the House are getting behind an effort to rein in the use of performance enhancing drugs in horse races.
Legislation from Reps. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), introduced earlier this year, would give the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) oversight of horse races, which lawmakers say is necessary to protect racehorses and the integrity of the sport.
“We know that when a horse is racing, and should not be due to injury, both the animal and the human being that is riding it are exposed to a higher degree of risk,” Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) said. “I believe this is unacceptable.”
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking member of the full committee, said that he backed the legislation and was “in support of the effort to stop the inhumane practices.”
Racehorses are sometimes injected with more than a dozen drugs ahead of races, advocates of new rules say, which may mask injuries, put the animals at risk and undermine the sport.
“Unlike other professional sports, like football and baseball, there is no central authority; no consistency in lab capabilities; no uniform penalties; no dedicated funding to increase lab testing nor conduct research to catch the next magic potion illegally administered to horses,” said Jesse Overton, a former member of the Minnesota Racing Commission who testified before the panel on Thursday.
The USADA is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization that conducts drug tests for U.S. Olympic athletes and others.
“We firmly believe, as do our athletes, that the greatest injustice in sport is when one competitor robs another of their hard work, dedication and victory because they gained an unfair advantage under the rules of the game,” its chief executive, Travis Tygart, told the lawmakers.
Though legislators on both sides of the aisle seemed supportive of the legislation, not everyone was on board.
“I do have specific concerns about this particular legislation,” said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), who represents a district that includes the famous Churchill Downs horse racing track. “I’m a little bit concerned about the accountability that USADA might have if empowered under this legislation.”