Anti-doping program goes in effect for horse racing

Thoroughbred racing’s first uniform, nationwide anti-doping program officially launched March 27.

That day, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) gave its final approval of the Anti-Doping and Medication Control (ADMC) Program through the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA). The program will be implemented and enforced by the Horseracing Integrity & Welfare Unit of Drug Free Sport International.

Under the ADMC Program, racing will have centralized testing driven by an investigative unit and will institute harmonization among laboratories so they are testing for the same substances at the same concentrations, wrote Lisa Lazarus, CEO of HISA, in a March 14 HISA newsletter.

Veterinarian gives an injection to a horse's foot before a horse race

The ADMC rules explicitly divides substances on the Prohibited List into two categories: controlled medications, or therapeutic substances that are permitted outside of race day and other specific periods, and banned substances that should never be allowed in a horse.

One area that HISA further clarified was intra-articular injections, which are prohibited on race day, within 14 days prior to post time, and within seven days prior to any timed and reported workout. The prohibition applies to substances injected into any articular space, including orthobiologics, such as interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein or stem cell therapy; corticosteroids; antimicrobials; and anesthetics, such as mepivacaine, lidocaine, and bupivacaine.

Also included in the rules package are the Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Protocol, the Prohibited List, definitions, arbitration procedures, equine testing and investigation standards, and equine standards for laboratories.

Legal matters

The omnibus spending bill for federal fiscal year 2021 included the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which created the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority and authorized HISA to implement uniform national rules in Thoroughbred horse racing, with oversight by the FTC.

HISA’s draft ADMC rules were initially rejected by the FTC in late 2022 because of ongoing legal uncertainties arising from a decision in November 2022 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The court declared the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act unconstitutional because the judges held that the authority was not subordinate to a federal agency.

In the spending bill for FY 2023, clarifying language was added to provide more authority for the FTC to “abrogate, add to, and modify the rules of the Authority.” HISA then resubmitted the ADMC rules for consideration by the FTC.

“At this time, there are no legal challenges on the horizon that we anticipate could impede the ADMC Program, and it is important that everyone is prepared for March 27 and has a full understanding of the new rules and how the ADMC Program will work,” Lazarus wrote in the HISA newsletter.

That said, Louisiana attorney general Jeff Landry, who brought the previous suit against HISA in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Louisiana, vowed to continue fighting against implementation.

Covered persons and horses

In addition to the launch of the ADMC Program, HISA also planned to begin requiring compliance with all of its existing regulations on racetrack safety and registration on March 27, according to the March 14 HISA newsletter. Covered people and horses not in compliance with the rules, which took effect on July 1, 2022, will be unable to race until they comply.

To be in compliance, covered people must make sure they and their covered horses are registered in the HISA Portal and that they have paid any overdue fines.

As of March 17, more than 70,000 Thoroughbred racing participants and administrators have now registered with HISA: 30,061 covered people and 41,953 covered horses.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority and Drug Free Sport International’s Horseracing Integrity & Welfare Unit are conducting extensive educational efforts to help the horse racing industry prepare for the Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program, including on-track and virtual meetings, presentations to industry groups, a growing library of educational resources on HIWU’s website, answers to some of the most common questions about the ADMC Program on HISA’s website, social media posts, and more.