This week the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program hosts its annual Global Symposium on Racing & Gaming, with racing industry leaders from all corners of the world in attendance.
I take great interest in that program and symposium for two reasons: I received both my undergraduate and law degrees from the UA and I have owned Thoroughbred racehorses for many years.
I want to see Thoroughbred racing thrive and I want it to be perceived as other major professional sports are. Having represented numerous professional athletes, including several from my alma mater, I have a deep appreciation for the proverbial level playing field.
But being a part of horse racing has also made me aware of a notable distinction that I believe will prove to be the sport’s Achilles heel – there is not a single, overarching set of regulations in American horse racing to ensure fairness and safety nationwide.
It is shocking, really, when you compare horse racing to other major national sports in the United States. I’ve worked with professional athletes for many years, and the lack of uniform regulation in horse racing stands out.
If each state wrote its own rules regulating other major sports like the NBA, NFL, MLB, and the rest, I could not fathom the tremendous risk that arrangement would pose to my clients’ safety – and their reputation. Imagine if a player on the Suns had to follow different rules for aspirin intake depending on whether they were playing the Pacers or the Bulls – and had different penalties for a violation? That’s the situation an owner, trainer and veterinarian find themselves in when moving among racetracks in various states.
American sports leagues simply could not survive working under patchwork regulations that pose such danger to the athletes, so why does horse racing continue under this disjointed framework?
From my experience, I understand that the regulatory process can indeed be a jumbled one. Without a uniform set of medication rules or enforcement, disputes will continue to degrade the integrity of horse racing. Consider this: drug testing results have legal implications; discrepancies in rules can lead to differing results across racing jurisdictions. Over time, the inevitable legal challenges and lengthy court disputes will naturally erode any trust and public will horse racing has left.
A uniform set of regulations and a level playing field is the only solution. Because of my love of horse racing, and my concern for its future, I support the Thoroughbred Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2015 (THIA). This bipartisan legislation, sponsored by U.S. Representatives Andy Barr (R-KY) and Paul Tonko (D-NY), would bring all states under a single set of regulations determined through rigorous scientific testing and review by a third-party regulatory entity.
This independent, private organization would be created by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which is the body that ensures uniform standards through testing of many other major sports industries, including U.S. Olympic athletes and competitors in the Tour de France.
In essence, this legislation would elevate horse racing’s standards to meet those of other major sports, prioritizing safety, integrity and fairness above industry interests.
The Symposium at Ventana Canyon includes panel discussions and presentations on a wide variety of topics, including what I believe is the sport’s most pressing need: medication reform.
Uniform medication testing and enforcement regulations for horse racing will ensure that horses, trainers, breeders and owners will all be competing on a level playing field when they race in Arizona or any other states.
Every state that licenses Thoroughbred racing should meet a standard that further ensures the welfare of our athletes and the integrity of this sport.
The Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act will help us do that.