Mo.-based company hired to police drugs in US horse racing

FILE - John Velazquez rides Medina Spirit across the finish line to win the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., May 1, 2021. The Kentucky Derby television broadcast will be produced by a woman for the first time in the 148-year-old history of the race. Lindsay Schanzer on Thursday, April 21, 2022, will be named senior producer of NBC Sports Derby coverage and oversee the networks horse racing production. Its her 10th Derby but her first running the show as she makes some history. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File) (Jeff Roberson, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A deal for Drug Free Sport International to police medication in horse racing was announced Tuesday, two months before the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority takes effect.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency had been set to become the regulator for anti-doping and medication control for thoroughbred racing. But in late December, the deal stalled.

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USADA CEO Travis Tygart said his group was “disappointed” not to be hired.

“We wanted to be in the fight to clean up the sport,” he said. “Unfortunately, we were unable to reach an agreement that would allow us a reasonable chance to successfully deliver our existing gold-standard programs, including adequate testing, education and investigative capacities.”

Drug Free Sport International has overseen testing and enforcement with the NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA, both men's and women's pro golf tours and NASCAR.

The Kansas City-based company will set up the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit, to be led by a five-member advisory council chaired by Jonathan Taylor, a London-based partner at the international law firm Bird & Bird.

He previously served as chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency's compliance review committee. He also has experience as outside legal counsel to the British Horseracing Authority and International Equestrian Federation.

The other members of the advisory council are Dr. Larry Bowers, former chief scientific officer at USADA; Dr. Larry Bramlage, an equine orthopedic surgeon in Kentucky; Sonja Keating, general counsel of the U.S. Equestrian Federation; and Günter Younger, director of intelligence and investigations at WADA.

Executive director Marty Irby of the animal advocacy and federal lobbying group Animal Wellness Action said it had hoped USADA would be chosen to work with HISA.

“It is our understanding that the cost of implementation was an issue for the Authority, but we believe when it comes to the welfare of the horse, no expense should be spared,” said Irby, who testified before Congress in support of HISA’s creation. “We are very disappointed and deeply concerned that the end result is not what we sought to achieve.”

HISA takes effect July 1. It will be implemented in stages, with the racetrack safety program starting immediately. The anti-doping and medication rules aren’t expected to begin until Jan. 1, 2023, leaving the 38 states where horse racing occurs in charge for now.

The sport's lack of uniform rules across the U.S. came into focus after Medina Spirit tested positive for a banned substance following the 2021 Kentucky Derby.


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