Q&A: HISA's Anti-Doping And Medication Control Program

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As the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act's (HISA) drug and medication control program has rolled out over the past couple of months, various questions have been raised over the mechanics of the new law.

As such, the TDN has decided to maintain a Q&A on this new program comprising questions raised by readers, and answers fielded by representatives from either HISA or the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit (HIWU), which implements HISA's anti-doping and medication control (ADMC) program.

The first set of responses can be read here.

The second set of responses can be read here.

Note: This is not a regular Q&A conducted in the form of an interview. Rather, these questions have been submitted in writing, and the written responses arrive typically days after. TDN does not have the ability, therefore, to ask follow-up questions immediately.

If you have any questions about the answers received, please submit them in writing to: [email protected]

TDN: In the case of one of the horses suspended through the use of intra-articular joint injections too close to a workout (Mendrel), HIWU initially sent a notice of violation to the incorrect trainer. It appears as though HIWU identified the trainer through information available on Equibase. In actuality, the horse had been sold privately prior to the intra-articular joint injection in question occurring, but Equibase had failed to update the relevant information. 

How often does HIWU rely on information on Equibase to identify the connections of horses? And what is HIWU doing to ensure this mix-up doesn't occur again?

HIWU notifies Covered Persons based on the information in the HISA portal. HISA continues to work with owners and trainers to ensure that horses' connections are accurately reported and updated as necessary.

TDN: What is HISA and HIWU doing to ensure that overseas runners on U.S. shores face the same pre-race scrutiny in their home countries as U.S. based horses?

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act does not grant HISA jurisdiction over horses located outside the United States. Horses brought over to run in the United States become Covered Horses under HISA's jurisdiction once they enter the country and have been nominated to or entered in a race.

HIWU has been engaging in conversations with international regulatory bodies regarding the testing of horses entered to race in the United States. While HIWU cannot mandate that a horse in another country is tested, if a trainer plans to race a horse in the U.S., HIWU can request that testing is conducted on its behalf and that the results be shared via mutual information sharing agreements.

Although international testing will be subject to that jurisdiction's rules and penalties, not HISA's, HIWU will be able to alert the relevant domestic jurisdiction(s) of the violation. The racetrack(s) can deny entries at their discretion based on the information received.

TDN: How many equine fatalities have there been since the racetrack safety program went into effect on July 1, 2022? And when will the nationwide equine fatality database be made public?

HISA understands that this type of equine welfare information is a matter of public interest. HISA's racetrack accreditation rules (HISA Rules 2100-2193) require tracks to establish Safety and Welfare Committees to review the circumstances and contributing causes of all catastrophic injuries and to report those findings to HISA. This is one of the requirements to attain and maintain full HISA accreditation.

HISA's accreditation team has been working with tracks to help them meet their internal review and reporting obligations. We're also in the process of developing internal systems so that reliable catastrophic injury data can be aggregated and made available on an ongoing basis. Until such time as reporting and tracking systems are in place nationwide, The Jockey Club's Equine Injury Database continues to be the most reliable source for equine fatality information.

[Note: The answer above falls under the purview of HISA's Racetrack Safety Program]

TDN: If a horse tests positive for betamethasone (as in Medina Spirit's case after the Kentucky Derby), but it is subsequently proven that the medication got into the horse's system through an ointment rather than an intra-articular injection, would that still result in sanctions?

Yes. The ADMC rules' “presence violations,” i.e., positive tests, are based on the presence of a Prohibited Substance in a horse's sample. How the substance was introduced into a horse's system may affect the trainer's degree of fault when an adjudicator determines the severity of the sanctions, but the “how” doesn't negate the fact that the substance was present in the horse and is therefore a violation under the ADMC Program.

TDN: In regards the group of horses which competed when suspended from racing for intra-articular joint injunctions, why is HIWU having such a hard time keeping these horses from slipping through the cracks and racing?

HIWU has internally addressed the notification processes for horses that have violated the intra-articular injection rules. Following HISA's updated guidance from July 14, horses that violate the intra-articular injection rules in relation to racing or breezing will not be subject to a period of Ineligibility for their first offense.

TDN: In regards the answers provided in the previous Q&ATDN would like clarification on why trainers who had violated the rules on intra-articular joint injections prior to a race (like trainer Douglas Nunn) weren't extended the same temporary relief in sanctions as those trainers who had violated the rules on intra-articular joint injections prior to a workout? 

HISA believes that the temporary pause in enforcement of the intra-articular injection rule against trainers in regard to workouts was the most fair and equitable course of action given that the workout portion of the intra-articular injection rule was new to many jurisdictions and that there were so many violations, indicative of a lack of understanding.

On the other hand, only one trainer violated the racing portion of the rule, showing that it was understood by horsemen. This was an established rule within the racing industry, which has additional safety and welfare concerns for a horse receiving an intra-articular injection too close to a race.

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