(Reuters) – A legislative fix to help the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) withstand legal challenges was awaiting President Joe Biden’s signature on Friday as part of the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress.
The amendment to the law provides greater federal oversight of the board charged with writing and implementing safety rules.
HISA was created by Congress in 2020 to replace the state-by-state patchwork of regulations with national rules following a series of high-profile doping scandals and horse deaths that rocked the industry.
HISA was challenged in court by various horseracing associations and officials in Texas, Louisiana and West Virginia who argued the authority, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), had insufficient oversight.
A federal appeals court last month had ruled the law unconstitutional.
“We applaud the Congress, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, and Rep. Paul Tonko for their leadership and tireless work to secure language in the year-end spending bill that will ensure the proper enforcement and implementation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act the U.S. Court of Appeals deemed ‘unconstitutional’ last month,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action.
“Animal Wellness Action remains steadfast in our efforts to eradicate doping, whipping, and other abuses that continue to run rampant in American horse racing and we will not rest until every abuser and cheater is eradicated from the sport.”
The law’s backers say there should be no interruption to the implementation of HISA’s rules, including the anticipated launch of its anti-doping and medication control program.
Supporters say the law is necessary to protect horses, jockeys and the sport as a whole, which they argue could fall out of favor with the public permanently if horses continue to die in training and competition.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)