HISA's New Anti-Doping Plan: What We Know So Far - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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HISA’s New Anti-Doping Plan: What We Know So Far

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) announced May 3 that it had entered into a partnership with Drug Free Sport International to serve as its anti-doping and medication control enforcement agency.

HISA and Drug Free Sport International representatives gathered on a video conference hours after the announcement to field questions from media about the new partnership and the current outlook for the anti-doping component of the new authority.

Here's what we know so far:

– The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act — the federal law that created the authority of similar name — requires one enforcement agency for anti-doping and medication controls, and requires that agency have full independence as it goes about enforcing drug regulations. Drug Free Sport International will be that agency. Underneath Drug Free Sport International will be the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit, which will be led by a five-member advisory council.

Although the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) had once been poised to partner with HISA for these purposes, that relationship fell apart. There are advisory council members coming in with USADA and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) experience, however — one of them being Dr. Larry Bowers, former chief scientific officer at USADA, Günter Younger, director of intelligence and investigations for WADA, and Jonathan Taylor, former chair of WADA's compliance review committee.

– Younger in particular specializes in investigations, and the authority also plans to utilize 5 Stones Intelligence to assist with investigations. Investigations into potential doping violations are expected to guide intelligence-based drug testing.

– The track safety aspects of HISA will begin rollout July 1, and the medication and anti-doping part of the authority's directive is set to begin implementation Jan. 1. The authority had already been working with USADA to draft medication regulations, and draft rules will be submitted to the Federal Trade Commission in July to begin the public comment and eventual approval process.

– The experience of Drug Free Sport International comes from human sports, both nationally and internationally. Chris Guinty, CEO of Drug Free Sport International, said the organization's three biggest clients by revenue are the National Football League, International Tennis Federation, and Major League Baseball. The organization does not provide exactly the same program for any two of its organizational clients, but is capable of doing results reporting, investigations, policy development, and sanctioning, depending on whether the organization already has its own arm to handle one of those areas.

– The current testing numbers in American racing far exceed the volume Drug Free Sport International typically handles in a year. Numbers from the Association of Racing Commissioners International indicate there were 243,627 post-race and out-of-competition tests administered to racing horses of all breeds last year. In 2019, Drug Free Sport International dealt with between 130,000 and 140,000 samples. Back when HISA was still expected to align with USADA, however, USADA CEO Travis Tygart had indicated publicly that testing in human sport tends to be more intelligence-based and out-of-competition, rather than post-competition. It's possible, though still unknown, the total number of racing samples could change if the approach to testing is different.

– Education is part of the medication control directive for HISA, and the authority believes it is equally important to testing and investigations as a preventative tool. Adolpho Birch, chair of the anti-doping and medication control committee and senior vice president of business affairs/chief legal officer for the Tennessee Titans, indicated he's aware that those interested in doping stay a step ahead of the rules.

“[Testing] may not always have a detection effect, but it certainly has a deterrent effect and investigation complements that,” said Birch, who encouraged the public to think about the three prongs of the program comprehensively.

– The new medication program will require a significant investment. Lisa Lazarus, CEO of HISA, anticipates that the new anti-doping unit will require 32 employees to run the anti-doping program, doing everything from lab accreditation to results reporting, investigation, and education. This figure does not include the people responsible for the actual sampling of horses. Lazarus believes HISA will be able to work with the state racing commissions to utilize existing staff to collect and submit samples at racetracks around the country.

– So far, three states — California, Kentucky, and Minnesota — have agreed to shoulder the costs of the track safety component of the authority's responsibilities. As we've reported, some state commissions have already decided they won't or cannot legally assume the costs of the track safety component of the new authority. It remains to be seen how costs will be managed in those states. Lazarus said HISA is close to reaching agreements with the “vast majority” of racing commissions on how the commissions and HISA will work together to enforce HISA rules.

Lazarus is hopeful that states will be able to allocate some part of their existing drug testing budget to HISA for the anti-doping and medication control costs, which have not yet been calculated and submitted to state commissions.

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