WASHINGTON — The exciting, down-to-the-wire finish in the 148th Kentucky Derby gave horse racing a much needed lift. Now the industry is about to undergo a major overhaul in a response to the animal abuse and doping allegations that have hurt the sport in the past. 

What You Need To Know

  • Thoroughbred racing will soon see changes mandated by Congress

  • The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act creates uniform standards for racetrack safety and anti-doping and medication controls

  • There had been a patchwork of laws that varied widely state by state

  • The racetrack safety portion of the law goes into effect on July 1, 2022

Fans will soon see the impact of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act that was passed in 2020. 

“Horse racing is the only sport I’m aware of that didn’t have national, uniform regulations in these spaces,” said Lisa Lazarus, CEO of the authority tasked with implementing these new rules. 

The law creates uniform standards in two areas; anti-doping and medications controls and racetrack safety to protect the horses and the jockeys. 

“It’s going to make it simpler for the jockeys,” Lazarus said. She pointed out that currently the safety guidelines change depending on what state they are competing in. 

Lazarus said a recent partnership with Drug Free Sport International, which administers comprehensive drug testing programs, will help streamline drug safety regulations.

“We have appointed Drug Free International, the agency that does all the testing for the NFL, the NBA, the NCAA, Major League Baseball, the PGA tour, NASCAR–they have a ton of experience with testing,” she said.

The law received broad bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate when it passed. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who was serving as majority leader at the time, co-sponsored the bill in the Senate and Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), who represents part of central Kentucky, helped push it across the finish line in the House. 

“The problem that American thoroughbred racing has dealt with over the years is that we labor under a patchwork of conflicting and inconsistent rules,” Barr said. 

Right now, the sport is governed by 38 separate jurisdictions. Barr said that makes it confusing for people who watch the sport too. 

“It will also attract a new generation of fans,” Barr said. “There will be the same set of rules whether you’re at Churchill Downs, whether you’re at the Preakness Stakes in Maryland or the Belmont Stakes in New York.” 

The racetrack safety portion of the law goes into effect on July 1, 2022, and the anti-doping and medication controls begin on Jan. 1, 2023.