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July 01, 2021

Horse racing safety authority members announced

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The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority announced its board of directors and standing committee members, including several prominent equine veterinarians, in May.

The authority was created by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which was part of a 5,500-plus–page, $2.3 trillion bipartisan government funding bill signed into law at the end of 2020. The authority is an independent, nongovernmental entity that will create and enforce uniform standards for horse racing safety and health in the U.S. It’s tasked with various responsibilities, including enforcing anti-doping rules, enforcing medication control, and enhancing racetrack safety. The authority will be overseen by the Federal Trade Commission and has been charged with contracting with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to oversee the anti-doping and medication control program on a national basis.

A previously formed nominating committee was responsible for selecting members of the board of directors of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority as well as members of its two standing committees, on anti-doping and medication control and on racetrack safety.

Racehorses' hooves on a grass track

The nominating committee was established this past October through the collective efforts of Thoroughbred industry stakeholders, including Breeders’ Cup, Churchill Downs Inc., Keeneland Association, and The Jockey Club. The committee was composed of seven members with diverse backgrounds: co-chairs Len Coleman and Nancy Cox, PhD; Katrina Adams; Dr. Jerry Black, a veterinarian; Gen. Joseph Dunford; Frank Keating; and Ken Schanzer.

The board of directors consists of nine members, five of whom were selected from outside the equine industry. Four members were selected as representatives of various equine constituencies.

“The appointments of five equine veterinarians to the Horseracing Integrity & Safety Authority’s governing bodies brings scientific expertise and devotion to equine health to this new era in U.S. horse racing,” said Dr. Scott Hay, 2021 president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, in a statement. “The AAEP has long-supported the creation of uniform rules in the sport, and we are thrilled that all racehorses will soon compete under the same stringent safety and integrity protocols.”

The members of the board of directors are as follows:

  • Steve Beshear, former Kentucky governor.
  • Adolpho Birch III, chief legal officer for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.
  • Leonard Coleman, former president of MLB’s National League.
  • Ellen McClain, former president of the New York Racing Association.
  • Charles Scheeler, former federal prosecutor.
  • Joseph De Francis, previous senior executive for various Thoroughbred racing entities.
  • Dr. Susan Stover, a professor of surgical and radiological sciences at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Bill Thomason, immediate past president of Keeneland.
  • D.G. Van Clief, former president of Breeders’ Cup.

The members of the Anti-Doping and Medication Control Standing Committee are as follows:

  • Adolpho Birch III.
  • Jeff Novitzky, vice president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
  • Kathleen Stroia, senior vice president of sport sciences and medicine and transitions for the Women’s Tennis Association.
  • Jerry Yon, previous member of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
  • Dr. Jeff Blea, equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board and the UC-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Dr. Mary Scollay, a veterinarian who is executive director and chief operating officer of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.
  • Scott Stanley, PhD, professor of analytical chemistry at the University of Kentucky’s Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center and director of the Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory.

The members of the Racetrack Safety Standing Committee are as follows:

  • Dr. Susan Stover.
  • Dr. Lisa Fortier, James Law professor of surgery and former Cornell Equine Park faculty director at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. She recently became the editor-in-chief of the AVMA journals (see story).
  • Peter Hester, MD, orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine.
  • Dr. Paul Lunn, dean of North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Carl Mattacola, PhD, dean of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro School of Health and Human Sciences.
  • Glen Kozak, senior vice president of operations and capital projects for the New York Racing Association’s facility and track operations.
  • John Velazquez, North America’s leading money-earning jockey who holds the record for most graded stakes wins.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association  commended the selection of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority members.

“The HISA Authority and standing committee appointments announced today include a diverse group of individuals with the right combination of independence and relevant experience necessary to establish uniform national anti-doping and racetrack safety standards as well as implement the tough but fair enforcement procedures essential to ensuring compliance with these standards,” said Alex Waldrop, president and chief executive officer of the NTRA, in a statement.

The issue of doping and medication in horseracing came up again recently when Medina Spirit, winner of the Kentucky Derby on May 1 at Churchill Downs, tested positive for 21 picograms of the steroid betamethasone. The drug is illegal when found in a racehorse’s blood on race day.

Bob Baffert, Medina Spirit’s trainer, acknowledged the horse was treated with the anti-fungal drug Otomax, which includes betamethasone. Baffert later recanted the statement and said a veterinarian recommended the drug because the horse had dermatitis but that Otomax was not used on race day.

Baffert was temporarily suspended by New York racing officials from entering horses, including Medina Spirit, in the June 5 Belmont Stakes. The suspension, which also applies to two other Thoroughbred tracks in New York, partly resulted from Medina Spirit’s positive test after the derby.