Barr: Racing Has Missed Its Chance To Self-Regulate, Time For Federal Legislation Is Now

Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky) renewed his call for federal legislation to guide medication regulation in horse racing during the Pan American Conference in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

Barr said although medication testing and uniformity isn't the only thing keeping the sport from drawing a sustainable fan base, the often-cited McKinsey report revealed the public does have concerns about equine welfare in racing.

“We recognize that some of racing's challenges are not solely attributable to the lack of uniformity,” Barr said. “There's other challenges: there's competition for that entertainment dollar. We also recognize that eliminating any and all excuses for young Millennials not to become fans in our sport is an important innovation in terms of marketing.”

Barr has been co-chairman of the Horseracing Integrity Act (often also referred to as the Barr-Tonko Bill) which would place responsibility for drug testing in the hands of an independent entity under the non-governmental U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). The bill would also create regulations for all states that would be on par with international standards, eliminating the difference in both regulation and testing application between states.

Calls for uniformity in racing and grim warnings about the entrance of a third party to help solve the industry's problems are nothing new. Barr believes racing has been given the chance to initiate its own change, (he acknowledged the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance have done admirable work in this direction). In Barr's view, the sport hasn't done an adequate job.

“I would submit that the inability of the industry to develop its own national uniform rules for the past 36+ years is probably the most persuasive argument for why we need federal legislation today,” said Barr. “At previous Congresses, many well-meaning policy makers tried to reform racing but they haven't been able to do so. I think, despite their best efforts and despite falling short we are not deterred by that and we think that now is a good time to double down on our efforts.”

Barr noted the bill has attracted bipartisan support from 88 Congressmen during the last legislative session and public support from 20 racing industry stakeholders, whose feedback he said is welcome as the legislative effort moves forward. 

Horsemen have both expressed a desire for uniformity and concern about the exact nature of rule reform. Some groups, like the North American Association of Racetrack Veterinarians, have raised objections to the uniform guidelines provided by the RMTC, citing concerns the rules don't allow enough room for potential sample contamination or account for levels of a drug which lack therapeutic impact.

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