Op-Ed

Lift doping shadow: Support national drug standards to stem racing's decline

American Pharoah, at Churchill Downs June 7 after winning the Belmont Stakes, is the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 37 years.
American Pharoah, at Churchill Downs June 7 after winning the Belmont Stakes, is the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 37 years. AP

The entire American horse racing industry is celebrating following American Pharoah's completion of the Triple Crown. And deservedly so. It's a rare achievement, among the greatest in all of sports.

And while there is positive momentum, a true turnaround in public support for the game so many of us love will not happen until the industry demonstrates that we can tackle an issue that all other major sports in the U.S. have faced — rooting out and preventing the use of performance enhancing drugs and medication.

The lack of real and robust national, uniform medication standards has cast a shadow over fair competition in American Thoroughbred horse racing as a sport and as a professional industry.

With more than three decades spent breeding Thoroughbreds, I recognize that this is a needlessly defensive position for our industry to be in. The current patchwork system of state-by-state medication testing and enforcement policies — while well-intended — has put the viability and future of the industry at risk.

Fortunately, we now have a real and positive path forward.

New York Congressmen Paul Tonko, co-chair of the Congressional Horse Caucus, has announced plans for legislation that would create a level playing field for horses, jockeys, trainers and owners that compete, as well as the fans who wager their hard-earned money on our sport.

This legislation would grant rule-making, testing and enforcement oversight to an entity created by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency at no cost to taxpayers.

USADA is a national, independent, non-governmental organization with a track record of creating uniform standards and science-based oversight to protect the rights of clean competitors and the integrity of competition, including cycling and the Olympics.

Only an organization like USADA can create and maintain a system that protects horses and the future of Thoroughbred horse racing for all of our participants and fans.

This proposed legislation has the support of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, whose members include the Water Hay Oats Alliance, The Jockey Club, Breeders' Cup Ltd. Inc., and The Humane Society of the United States.

This bill offers a balanced, common-sense approach, and the best chance to improve transparency and uniformity in American Thoroughbred horse racing. You can read more about the bill and review an outline of the key elements at www.horseracingintegrity.com.

If this effort is going to be successful, we need all members of the Kentucky delegation to sign on as co-sponsors of this important legislation, before confidence in this job-creating, revenue-producing industry erodes any further.

If you believe, as I do, that nothing is more important than regaining the trust of our fans and protecting the welfare of our horses, you should support the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, and join with us to support national, independent testing and enforcement.

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