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DCCP Ranking Member Schakowsky's Opening Remarks at Horseracing Integrity Hearing

Jun 22, 2018
Press Release

Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky's (D-IL) remarks as prepared for delivery for the Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommitttee hearing on “H.R. 2651, the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017”: 

Good morning. I would like to thank Chairman Latta for holding today’s hearing on horseracing. 

The Horseracing Integrity Act, introduced by Representatives Barr and Tonko, is a very critical piece of legislation. It is past time that we address the glaring issues within the horse industry. 

This is very personal for me. As the former owner of a horse named BJ Sullivan, I know how important these majestic animals are. I have fond memories of tending to and riding horses with my grandfather as a young girl. I have also been a longtime supporter of animal welfare protections. 

I am happy that Representatives Barr and Tonko have introduced this updated legislation and I am proud to be a cosponsor. I was the lead cosponsor of similar legislation in 2013 with Representative Pitts, that addressed some of the same concerns with doping in horseracing. 

The new Barr-Tonko bill incorporates many of those things. Specifically, the legislation was expanded to include Standardbred and Quarter horses. All race horses should be afforded the same protections under this legislation. 

Most notably, it places a ban on race day medication – which I feel is the most important change to the legislation.

Drugs such as Lasix are often misused in order to increase a horses’ performance during the race. Proponents of using Lasix will claim that it is similar to giving a horse a vaccination and is used to prevent bleeding. 

However, the reality is that the drug is masking an underlying health issue with the horse as well as the possible presence of illegal substances. The use of these drugs jeopardizes the long-term health and safety of the horse. 

More than 90 percent of horses in the United States compete on Lasix. In most international racing, the drug is banned on race day. The United States should learn from those other countries. We are literally running horses into the ground. 

Recent data by the American Jockey Club found that 493 Thoroughbred horses died in 2017. If human athletes were dying at this rate while racing, it would be clear that there was a problem and needed to be fixed. These glaring numbers harm the integrity of the industry. 

Horses in the sport deserve real protections. For too long, we have allowed the industry to self-regulate without any real progress in ensuring protections and stopping the bad actors. 

The Horseracing Integrity Act would address many of these issues plaguing the industry. It would allow an independent regulatory body to oversee the industry, create a national standard that ensures States are following the same rules and implement a uniform anti-doping program that prohibits race day drugs. 

The future of horseracing depends on this universal regulatory body. We must ensure that we are protecting horses and stopping the bad actors who are endangering the lives of the horses, jockeys and the fate of the industry that so many people love. If we have banned doping in other sports, why not ban it in the horseracing industry. 

I look forward to hearing the testimony on how we can continue to protect equines and the integrity of the horseracing industry.