At 1-Month Mark For Drug Control, HISA Braces Industry For Changes

Lisa Lazarus | Carley Storm

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Four weeks out from the anticipated effective date for the Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program (ADMC), the Authority overseeing the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) is stepping up its awareness campaign so industry participants can be properly prepared for a sweeping change in regulatory protocols.

“We are officially on the one-month countdown to what we are confident will be the launch of our ADMC program on Mar. 27,” Lisa Lazarus, the chief executive officer for the HISA Authority, said during a Monday video press conference.

“Everyone is sort of on the same page of wanting uniformity and wanting consistency,” Lazarus continued. “And we're excited for the chance to actually show the industry what that looks like. I think once we get past Mar. 27, we'll be able to convert some doubters into believers.”

Part of what Lazarus and Ben Mosier, the executive director for the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit (HIWU), are trying to get across to industry entities is that the looming ADMC implementation date is a very real deadline that they believe will not be affected by any current court action.

Mosier underscored that the ADMC launch is “what my team is focused on right now until somebody tells us otherwise.”

Added Lazarus: “One of the challenges for us, and why we are beating the drum as much as we possibly can, is to make sure stakeholders realize this is actually coming on Mar. 27. The moment the Federal Trade Commission [FTC] approves the [ADMC] regulations, they are effective.”

That date represents the last day of the FTC's  60-day review period for the ADMC rules, and Lazarus said “all indications” are that the FTC will greenlight them.

“The minute they approve them, state racing commissions are out of the drug-testing business, and we're the sole entity responsible in those states where HISA is operating,” Lazarus said.

Lazarus did note an exception: “The [federal] court in Louisiana has enjoined HISA from operating in Louisiana and West Virginia, so we will not be administering the ADMC program in those states, and yes, state regulations will continue to be in effect there.”

Lazarus also noted that the four federal lawsuits aiming to try to derail HISA were all initiated prior to the December 2022 rewrite of the HISA law that amended the act's operational language with the aim of quelling legal allegations of anti-constitutionality.

“I really don't think there is anything” in the courts that can stop the FTC's approval from happening, “which is why I'm so confident,” Lazarus said. “There is no pending legal action that is on the schedule to be resolved ahead of Mar. 27, [and] no party, no person, no entity has mounted any challenge to that [rewritten] law.”

Asked about immediate changes that horse owners and trainers might notice on Day 1 of implementation, Mosier noted several examples. One involved exactly who-HISA personnel or the existing track stewards-would be responsible for selecting horses for post-race testing.

“All testing is managed and directed by HIWU,” Mosier explained. “But what we're doing, and don't want to lose, is the ability for local personnel to inform testing selections. And what I mean by that is currently [in] the industry, the stewards [select horses for post-testing]. And we're not going to lose that ability. But we have to ensure that their selections are done in compliance with the rules, so we're working very closely with the stewards to make sure that they are educated and understand the rules and are essentially certified to now do this under our direction.”

Mosier continued: “We can also still hear information actively from veterinarians, or other personnel, on the ground [regarding factors] they see on the backstretch that typically flow up to the stewards on a daily basis.”

But, Mosier added, the flow of “nationwide intelligence” will also work in the other direction, meaning that local testing protocols might be triggered by information that flows downward from higher-up Authority entities, including from tips that come via HISA's whistleblower program.

Lazarus put it this way: “I think having a nationwide strategy that is intelligence-driven is going to be an opportunity for the industry to see how clean [or not]” the sport is.

Lazarus added that participants will experience “far higher levels of out-of-competition testing that the industry's ever seen, [instead of] almost-exclusive reliance on post-race testing to manage integrity.”

Mosier said when a horse is brought to a test barn, for example, the chain of custody will be paperless.

Mosier said horsemen can expect to have to electronically sign off on testing via an iPad (with instructions available in both English and Spanish), and that this system will assign unique markers that will accompany the specimen samples to the testing lab. Horsemen will then be electronically forwarded receipts from the test-barn process to streamline and provide proof of testing.

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