By T. D. Thornton
Lisa Lazarus, the chief executive officer for the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA), on Tuesday made an appeal for sport-wide unity with United States racing on the cusp of a Jan. 1 roll-out of HISA's Anti-Doping and Medication Control rules.
“I want you to think about what this sort of change is going to mean for the industry,” Lazarus said. “It's going to look and feel different, and it's going to allow us to say to those that are our detractors, to those that doubt horse racing is clean, 'Look, we now have a rigorous, comprehensive program that is uniform; where laboratories are harmonized.'”
Lazarus made her remarks as part of the kickoff to the 2022 Global Symposium on Racing hosted by the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program in Tucson, Arizona. She briefly acknowledged, but did not dwell upon, the looming legal fight that HISA faces that could derail its very existence.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Nov. 18 ruled that HISA is unconstitutional, and the Sixth Circuit Appeals Court will hear oral arguments Dec. 7 in a similar case that also seeks to reverse a lower court's decision to dismiss a constitutional challenge.
Although petitions for legal stays, rehearings, or potential actions by Congress are all in play for the near future, HISA is otherwise operating in business-as-usual mode until an expected Jan. 10 mandate gets issued by the Fifth Circuit to enforce its order. So in that spirit, Lazarus kept her Dec. 6 remarks forward-focused.
“One of two things are going to happen,” Lazarus said. “Either we're going to be able to show, and I think we will, that the vast majority of racehorses are competing clean. And if we have [drug] positives, we'll be able to show that we're now taking significant action, that we're now on our own initiative cleaning things up. So this, to me, is a game-changer.”
Lazarus said she would like industry stakeholders to think of HISA as a “stabilizer.” She gave the analogy of a stable stock market, in which that stability allows growth to occur.
Lazarus also mentioned a couple of ways in which she didn't want stakeholders to think of HISA: Not, she said, as an entity “making rules that complicate people's lives. Not to being sort of a top-down regulator. But genuinely helping to grow the industry through creating uniformity; through creating this protective sheath around issues of integrity and safety.”
Wrapping up, Lazarus underscored the need for unity.
“We need to be united as an industry. We can fight, and scream, and yell, and debate and malign behind closed doors. But to the outside public, to the external threats, we need to speak in one voice,” Lazarus said.
“This is our moment in time. This moment is very unlikely ever to replicate itself,” Lazarus said. “We can't lose this moment in time.”