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House committee to hear proposed bill that would ban doping of horses on race day

Animal welfare advocates have been calling for federal regulations.

The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce plans to hear a proposed bill that would ban the doping of horses on race day — a key concern over the safety and wellbeing of racehorses.

The Committee is expected to amend and approve the Horseracing Integrity Act, or H.R. 1754, which would establish the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority as an independent, private non-profit corporation.

The authority, which would be overseen by the Federal Trade Commission, would be responsible for developing and administering an anti-doping and medication control program for racehorses as well as the personnel engaged in the care, training, or racing of the horses.

PHOTO: Authentic #18, ridden by jockey John Velazquez and the field break from the starting gate during the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 05, 2020.

Authentic #18, ridden by jockey John Velazquez and the field break from the starting gate during the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 05, 2020.

Authentic #18, ridden by jockey John Velazquez and the field break from the starting gate during the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 05, 2020.

The bill was introduced in March 2019 by U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Andy Barr, R-Ky. If approved, it would be taken up on the House floor.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced on Aug. 31 he would introduce compromise legislation, named the Horseracing Safety and Integrity (HISA) Act, which would incorporate many of the key provisions within H.R. 1754.

The proposed legislation comes after years of controversial horse deaths and animal welfare advocates calling for federal regulation of horse racing. In March 2019, Southern California’s Santa Anita Park introduced a zero-tolerance policy for almost all medication on race day after dozens of horses died within months of beginning the season.

“The doping of American racehorses has been a controversial issue over the past five years with hundreds of horses dying on racetracks annually, and the indictment of 37 trainers and veterinarians in March of 2020,” the Animal Wellness Action said in a statement Tuesday.

The legislation is supported by all three Triple Crown racetracks as well as the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, according to Animal Wellness Action.

“With the anticipated successful mark up in the House Energy and Commerce Committee today, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020 will take a significant step forward toward passage in the House,” Humane Society President and CEO Kitty Block told ABC News in a statement. “The bill mirrors language being introduced today by Senate Majority Leader McConnell representing a state with deep economic stakes in racing and focuses on two key factors that have led to a number of racetrack deaths in recent years: the reckless doping of racehorses and track safety. With a scandalous average of 8.5 horses dying during races every week, the need for Congressional action is critical this year. Industry support for this bill is a powerful acknowledgment of the problems plaguing horse racing today.”

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