HISA Temporarily Suspends Full Enforcement of Intra-Articular Joint Injection Rules

Lisa Lazarus | The Jockey Club

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The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) has temporarily suspended full enforcement of its rules surrounding intra-articular joint injections.

Under HISA's rules as written, trainers are prohibited from giving their horse intra-articular joint injections within 14 days prior to the post-time of a race, and within seven days prior to any timed and reported workout.

A violation of these rules could result in a 60-day suspension for the trainer.

According to an announcement dated June 26, the prohibition of such injections within seven days prior to a workout shall be enforced only by making the horse ineligible to race for a period of 30 days. This temporary measure will last until July 15, 2023. HISA had also issued a bulletin to stakeholders on June 23 stating the new policy.

All other provisions of the rule will continue to be enforced.

According to HISA Chief Executive Lisa Lazarus, between 15 and 20 trainers have breached the rule surrounding intra-articular joint injections prior to a workout. The reason HISA decided to temporarily modify its enforcement of the rule was due to confusion among trainers about the specifics of the rules related to workouts, Lazarus added.

“On the workout side, while it was mentioned in the education process, it seems that a lot of trainers just really didn't understand it, and most of the violations we saw were only off by one day,” said Lazarus.

Lazarus added that the temporary modification of enforcement of the rules was deemed the most “fair and equitable” way to proceed “given the number of violations.”

According to Lazarus, there has been only one violation of the rule surrounding intra-articular joint injections prior to a race.

Lazarus said she was unaware which trainers had breached the rule. “That would be a HIWU question,” said Lazarus, pointing to the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit, which oversees implementation of HISA's anti-doping and medication control (ADMC) program.

“When horses are suspended, you'll be able to figure that out,” Lazarus added, pointing to HIWU's “public disclosures” webpage.

The Authority–the non-profit umbrella broadly overseeing implementation of the federal law–has the legal discretion to modify rule enforcement, said Lazarus.

“We can't modify the rules,” she said. “But we can–and we have in the past on the safety rules–decided to not enforce a particular provision of the rule,” said Lazarus.

“This general discretion to not enforce a portion of the rule is we believe within HISA's authority,” she added.

When asked if this was fair to other industry stakeholders facing sanctions as per the rules, Lazarus said that sanctions are still being meted out, even though they are less stringent than the rules require.

“There are a lot of folks who don't like the decisions that we [make]. But it's our job to make tough decisions, and I fully stand behind this decision,” said Lazarus.

When asked if this action was unfair to the owners of the horses in question, Lazarus said that it was ultimately a welfare decision.

“Protecting the horse is always in our view our responsibility,” said Lazarus. “And so, we believe it is not appropriate to allow a horse to race within 30 days of it having the injection.”

Lazarus said that the Authority is not “at this time” considering tweaking the enforcement of other rules on the books.

Daily Racing Form reported that HISA's Anti-Doping and Medication Committee is also considering modifying the sanctions surrounding the 60-day trainer suspension for violating the workout portion of the rule.

“There's a feeling that the sanction may be too high,” Lazarus told the DRF.

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