Federal judge strikes down horseracing regulation law

WATCH | Federal judge strikes down horseracing regulation law
Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 10:06 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A federal judge has struck down legislation, passed two years ago, that set national standards to promote fairness, increase safety and help preserve thoroughbred racing.

In the horse capital of the world, the horse racing industry is a major economic draw. A law supported by Congressman Andy Barr and Senator Mitch McConnell, that passed in 2020, aimed to bring policy and enforcement after doping scandals and racetrack deaths.

Now, a federal judge in New Orleans is blocking the law, which went into effect in July, after lawsuits were filed by horseracing associations and state officials in Texas, Louisiana, and West Virginia.

Marty Irby is the executive director of Animal Wellness Action. Nearly three years ago, he testified before Congress in favor of the bill, adding advocates worked with lawmakers for years to perfect it.

“All of the lawyers that we talked to in our own organization and externally in Congress, have said for many, many years that we have written the language in a way that it would be upheld and it was constitutional,” Irby said.

The judge, who struck down the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, said the setup for policies gave too much power to a nongovernmental authority and too little to the Federal Trade Commission, who could modify regulations the authority enforced, but the authority could reject those modifications.

“This law outlawed the use of all drugs on race day and created a uniform national standard for drug testing overseen by this new authority so there is certainty in the industry,” Irby said.

Irby says faith in the racing industry is being lost, citing instances like Bob Baffert’s suspension following Medina Spirit’s positive test for a banned race-day drug after the Kentucky Derby.

“If people are going to maintain their interest in this sport, and have faith in it, then the betting public wants to know that they’re betting on a fair game,” Irby said. “With these drugs being administered on a daily basis, at nearly every track across America, they’re so skewed, there’s really no way to know what you’re betting on.”

In a statement tonight, Congressman Barr said he was disappointed in the decision, saying in part, “the horseracing integrity and safety act was carefully and thoughtfully crafted over a multi-year process in consultation with industry stakeholders, equine advocates and constitutional law experts to create a national uniform medication, anti-doping and racetrack safety program...” Barr goes on to say he is confident the law will be ultimately upheld.