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U.S. horse racing enters new regulatory era

New and enhanced anti-doping regulations took effect in U.S. Thoroughbred horse racing on March 27 following the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) approval of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s (HISA) Anti-Doping and Medication Control (ADMC) Program, according to a HISA press release.

This means that for the first time in the sport’s history, the majority of racetracks that operate Thoroughbred horse races will now adhere to uniform testing and enforcement standards developed to strengthen equine welfare and enhance confidence in the fairness of competition. HISA’s ADMC Program, administered by the Horseracing Integrity & Welfare Unit (HIWU), brings all testing and results management under one national authority, standardizes the categories of substances for which laboratories test and institutes clear and consistent penalties for violations.

‘Game changer’

In its authority as the independent administrator of the ADMC Program, HIWU is introducing to the sport a new paperless sample collection system, strategic out-of-competition testing nationwide and centralized adjudication processes to facilitate swift rulings.

“Having a uniform anti-doping program in place for the first time ever will be a game changer for American horse racing,” HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus said in the release. “HISA’s ADMC Program is the modern, rigorous yet fair regulatory framework the sport deserves. Its rules, philosophical approach and professional implementation will help ensure the integrity of the competition and demonstrate the seriousness of the industry’s commitment to equine welfare.”

HIWU is led by Executive Director Ben Mosier, who has previously overseen anti-doping programs for multiple North American sports leagues and organizations. Among other members of HIWU’s leadership team are experts with decades of experience working in anti-doping, including in Thoroughbred racing, as well as in federal law enforcement.

Internationally recognized standards

The ADMC Program’s Prohibited Substances List is divided into two categories: 1) Banned Substances that are never permitted in a horse and 2) Controlled Medications that are permitted outside specified periods. Horses will now be tested for these substances following races as well as outside competition windows through an intelligence-based testing system developed by HIWU. The ADMC Program incorporates internationally recognized standards set by organizations including the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI).

“Thoroughbred racing is a cherished American institution that for too long has been marred by a small group of bad actors who took advantage of the patchwork of differing state-level anti-doping rules to cheat and evade real consequences,” said Charles Scheeler, Chair, HISA Board of Directors. “Leaders in the sport and horsemen across the country have finally come together to prioritize equine welfare and integrity above all else, and I have no doubt that our sport’s future is brighter for it.”

Bringing racing in line

“The ADMC rules are informed by science and were developed by experts with unparalleled expertise in anti-doping and equine welfare,” said Adolpho Birch, HISA ADMC Committee Chair and Tennessee Titans Vice President & Chief Legal Officer. “With collaboration from across the industry, this program will bring racing in line with the level and quality of other North American sports that are able to take advantage of centralized safety and integrity regulations.”

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, passed into federal law in 2020, grants HISA jurisdiction over all Thoroughbred horse races in the U.S. that are the subject of interstate off-track or advance deposit wagers.

The ADMC Program is the second of HISA’s two regulatory programs to be implemented. HISA’s Racetrack Safety Program, which established uniform operational safety rules and racetrack accreditation standards, took effect upon receiving approval from the FTC on July 1, 2022. Further information about HISA can be found on the organization’s website.