Scheeler: Proposed HISA Regulations Will Be Available For Public Comment By Year’s End

For those in the racing industry wondering about how the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) is progressing, HISA chair Charles Scheeler said you won’t have long to wait for the next step of the transition to racing’s national authority. At the Jockey Club Round Table, held as a virtual event streamed on Aug. 15, Scheeler laid out a timeline for the next steps as the clock ticks down to the July 1, 2022 start date mandated by federal legislation.

Although it is widely assumed the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency will take control of drug testing for horse racing, a contract has not yet been inked to finalize that relationship. It’s no secret that USADA expects to take over that role, and the organization has hired Dr. Tessa Muir as its director of equine science. Muir grew up immersed in the equestrian world in her native England, attended veterinary school in Australia, and worked as a regulatory veterinarian after graduation.

The rules set out by the national authority will come from two separate committees: the medication/anti-doping committee and the safety committee. The former is chaired by Adolpho Birch, who coordinated the medication policy for the National Football League, and the latter is chaired by Dr. Sue Stover of the University of California-Davis.

Medication regulations must, per the text of the federal law, be based on international guidelines. Once the committees have draft guidance, it will be released to the industry for public comment for a period of 60 days. Then, HISA must consider public comment and has the opportunity to tweak the drafted rules. From there, HISA will submit the proposed regulations to the Federal Trade Commission and they must be entered into the federal register for another official 60-day comment period. After that period expires, the FTC must approve the new regulations at least four months prior to their becoming effective.

With a July 1 implementation deadline for HISA, that means regulations must be finalized and published March 1 at the latest in order to take effect as required by law.

Scheeler said by late fall or winter, HISA would have solid information regarding costs of the new program. But make no mistake — it will cost more than what the industry is used to paying.

“These program costs should not be looked at expenses,” said Scheeler. “They should be looked at as investments in strengthening the industry and ensuring its future.”

Outreach and education will also be part of the plan to get HISA off the ground. Scheeler said the new authority is not designed to replace state racing commissions, but will endeavor to work with them to enhance the work they’re already doing. Scheeler emphasized that HISA isn’t going to work if racing industry participants don’t believe in it or put their best efforts into getting it off the ground — and that it needs to work, because the status quo is untenable.

“I’ve joked with some folks that we have a great advantage here in horse racing because the horses don’t have a union,” said Scheeler. “But maybe that’s the problem. While human athletes knowingly accept a risk when they cheat, horses don’t have that choice. And while there are a constellation of humans in various organizations across the industry designed to protect horses, the enforcement has been balkanized and uneven.”

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