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  /  Backstretch Buzz   /  HISA AUTHORITY MOVES IN DIFFERENT DIRECTION AFTER USADA DEFECTION

HISA AUTHORITY MOVES IN DIFFERENT DIRECTION AFTER USADA DEFECTION

By: Tom LaMarra


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Posted: Jan. 7, 2022

With the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority having suspended negotiations with the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which had been tapped to oversee the medication control program under the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020, there is uncertainty regarding which entity or entities will end up overseeing it.

The racetrack safety component of HISA is moving forward with draft rules and is expected to take effect July 1 of this year following review, a public comment period under the Federal Trade Commission, and an industry education period.

“HISA will continue (its) search for an independent enforcement agency to oversee the medication control protocols,” HISA Chairman Charles Scheeler said. “The authority will also work with the FTC to ensure the racetrack safety program advances on schedule. When operational, the program will provide critical enhancements to protect the health and safety of equine and human athletes.”

The racetrack safety program draft rules are largely drawn on work already done by the Mid-Atlantic Strategic Plan to Reduce Equine Fatalities and the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition.

The authority in a release it is “evaluating options with other leading independent enforcement agencies” and had earlier said it didn’t expect the medication control program—which includes post-race and out-of-competition drug testing—to be in place until early 2023. A few industry officials, however, have speculated that existed laboratories that test samples under state contracts could ultimately play a role, as could organizations such as the Association of Racing Commissioners International and the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.

In a statement, USADA suggested it expected more control over the rules and the rule-making process.

“We are deeply disappointed to announce that we have been unable to reach an agreement with the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority for USADA to become the enforcement agency for the anti-doping and medication control program for Thoroughbred racing under the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act,” USADA said. “After months of negotiations, we have been unable to enter an agreement in line with the requirements of the (law), and one which would have given us a reasonable chance to put in place a credible and effective program. While we are obviously saddened by the outcome at this stage, we tried our absolute best to find a way forward but without success.

“While we desperately tried to reach an agreement to implement the program, without compromising our values, we have always said the passing of the legislation and the finalization of uniform, robust rules are huge victories for the horses and the equine industry. We are honored to have been involved with these efforts to restore the integrity of Thoroughbred horse racing. Though we are unsure what the future holds for USADA—if any—in this effort, we have offered to assist the authority and others in the industry to ensure that the sport gets the program it needs and that the horses deserve.”

Meanwhile, there has not been action on a pair of lawsuits that question the constitutionality of HISA, and no announcements on how the overall HISA program will be funded by the racing industry.