March 11, 2020

Udall Pushes for Anti-Doping Rules for U.S. Horseracing in U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Reauthorization Bill

Committee adopts Udall amendment for USADA to make recommendations to Congress for U.S. anti-doping program

Committee action comes as DOJ is targeting a massive international doping conspiracy involving 11 trainers, seven veterinarians and others in horseracing

Udall continues his long-standing call for Congress to act and ban doping in U.S. horseracing that corrupts the sport and needlessly kills racehorses

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), member of the Senate Commerce Committee, called again for Congress to act to ban doping in U.S. horse racing and secured passage of a related amendment during the Commerce Committee’s markup of legislation to reauthorize the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the independent, national anti-doping organization for the U.S. Olympic teams.  

In the same week that U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman brought federal indictments filed against 27 defendants in the Southern District of New York for “the most far-reaching prosecution of racehorse doping in the history of the Department of Justice,” the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously accepted Udall’s amendment to require USADA to report to Congress within 180 days about its capabilities to implement a horseracing anti-doping program and to make recommendations to Congress about how a successful program would be designed. 

“I have been calling for real regulation of horse doping in the United States for many years.  Every other major racing nation does this.  We don’t.  And horses are dying and it’s corrupting a once great sport,” said Udall. “Yesterday, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York brought charges against 27 people involved in a massively corrupt horse doping conspiracy that was enabled by this regulatory vacuum.”

“The bill today reauthorizes the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, USADA, which everyone around the world recognizes as the gold standard for regulating doping in Olympic sports,” Udall continued. “My bill would empower USADA to act as the anti-doping organization for all horseracing.  USADA would develop the anti-doping framework, education, testing, and adjudication programs.  Penalties would include a “one and done” lifetime ban for most severe cases.”

This week, 11 trainers, seven veterinarians and nine drug suppliers and distributors were charged in an international racehorse doping scheme. The continued chronic abuse of performance-enhancing drugs in horseracing is commonplace and undermines the safety and viability of the sport.  Drugged up with painkillers and performance-enhancing substances, racehorses can be pushed beyond their limits, leading to break downs with potentially fatal consequences for horses and jockeys.

USADA CEO Travis Tygart issued a statement on March 9, 2020 following the release of the federal indictments, saying “[w]ith the horse racing industry at a crossroads, the right thing to do is to remove the fox from guarding the henhouse and ensure there is an independent anti-doping body in place to protect the integrity of the sport and the safety of the horses.”

Udall’s amendments included:

The Committee accepted Udall Amendment #1 by unanimous voice vote.  This amendment requires USADA to submit a report in 180 days on its capabilities to implement an equine doping and medication program and recommendations to Congress about the best practices and design of a horseracing anti-doping program. 

Udall also filed an Amendment #2 that was the full text of his bill S. 1488, the Racehorse Doping Ban Act, which would establish consistent medication rules across the industry and strict doping penalties for horse races already governed by federal law, and charge USADA with implementing a testing program. The Committee was not prepared to accept this amendment and it was withdrawn.