Relatively few jockeys are fortunate enough to have a career in thoroughbred horse racing as long as mine. I spent 28 years as a professional jockey and have been able to experience the horse racing industry from a number of other perspectives: as the general manager at Santa Anita Park, as a racing analyst for NBC, ABC, and the horse racing network TVG, and, most recently, as an instructor at the North American Racing Academy (NARA) in Lexington, Ky., which I founded in 2006.

I retired from riding in 2002 at the age of 47 for one reason. I wanted to be able to walk away from the game I love so much on my own terms. I had broken arms, legs, ribs and vertebrae and simply did not want to get hurt any more. I guess you could say I lost my heart.


Riding is a very dangerous occupation. Since 1940, on average, two jockeys each year are killed and two more are left paralyzed from racing and/or training accidents. And that’s just in the United States.

Regrettably, some of these accidents involve unsound horses who have been treated with medication and should not be competing at that time.

Aside from helping my wife raise our three daughters, being elected to the thoroughbred racing Hall of Fame and assisting disabled jockeys through the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund and the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund, training the next generation of jockeys at the academy has been the pride of my life.

Our academic curriculum includes courses in nutrition, fitness, finance, equine health and, naturally, the rules of racing.

Unfortunately, the rules of racing vary as wildly as the silks behind the starting gate.

And this variation applies, more than anything else, to race day medication.

Today, there are 38 separate racing jurisdictions, each with its own set of medication rules, lab capabilities, enforcement procedures and penalties. This system makes it incredibly difficult for owners and trainers to keep track of and comply with each state’s regulations, especially when their horses often compete in different states.

The fact that there aren’t more instances of rule violations is a testament to the sport and its participants. But when it comes to creating a level playing field and holding those who do skirt the rules to justice, we do not have the best system possible in place.

Thankfully, two members of Congress introduced a bill earlier this year that would create better oversight and more uniformity in horse racing. Reps. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and Andy BarrAndy BarrThe IMF has lost its way Republicans press Biden administration to maintain sanctions against Taliban World Bank suspends aid to Afghanistan after Taliban takeover MORE (R-Ky.) have sponsored the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015 (THIA) for consideration in the House.

I sincerely hope this legislation garners the support it deserves.

Essentially, the bill would establish a new, non-profit and non-governmental organization under the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that would oversee rule making, testing and enforcement in every American jurisdiction.

For a sport so dependent on the integrity of those who participate, uniformity like this is long overdue.

These changes will no doubt level the playing field for those who compete in thoroughbred racing and for the men and women who wager on our races.

Several prominent horse racing organizations, animal rights associations, a veterinarians’ group, and six racetracks from around the country comprise the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, advocating in support of uniform medication standards for thoroughbred racing.  (Additional information about the coalition is available at

During my career as a jockey, I competed in more than 34,000 races. I came to understand and appreciate that there is nothing more important for our sport than the proper care of our horses and fair play for our competitors and fans.

As I see it, this bill ensures proper care and fair play for our great sport.

McCarron is a retired Hall of Fame jockey. He serves on The Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Safety Committee and is a member of the Water Hay Oats Alliance, which supports the passage federal legislation to prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs in horse racing.