HISA Update
Dr. Tessa Muir
Dr . Tessa Muir, Director of Equine Science, United States Anti-Doping Agency
Charles Scheeler
Charles Scheeler, Chair, Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority Board of Directors

STUART S. JANNEY III: I’ve said it before, I’m going to say it now, and I’m going to say it again in the future: Passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is good for the sport and everyone involved. Many people have worked tirelessly over the years to get the legislation passed, and now others are working tirelessly to make sure the correct medication and surface programs are put into place.

I am pleased that Dr. Tessa Muir, who joined the United States Anti-Doping Agency this year to assist with the implementation of HISA, and Charlie Scheeler, who is chairman of the board of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, can explain the details of the act and the progress being made.

DR. TESSA MUIR: Good morning, and thank you to The Jockey Club and, in particular, Jim Gagliano and Matt Iuliano for the opportunity to speak to you today and, together with Charlie Scheeler, to provide you with an update on the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act development.

Briefly before that and by way of introduction, a few snippets on my background in horse racing and how I ended up at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, USADA.

I grew up in the U.K. in a small village steeped in racing history and having ridden and competed since a young age. I jumped on my first racehorse, Master Robbie, at age 14 and instantly fell in love.

When I wasn’t at school or competing, mornings were destined to be spent on the gallops, wondering if my toes were going to fall off from frostbite. And whilst we did occasionally see the sun in Britain, I eventually saw the light, moving to sunnier climates, such as Australia and Singapore, to continue my racing journey.

I’ve been back a few times to the place I ultimately call home, but the opportunity for exploring different countries and cultures and meeting new, interesting people has been one of the best things about working in such an international industry as racing.

In Australia, I was lucky enough to work for Lindsay Park, where during my gap year I led up my first winner, Forest Morning, at an incredibly dusty and hot track in South Australia. It might have been a fairly run of the mill race, but, nonetheless, when the horse won and crossed that post first, I was smiling from ear to ear.

And it taught me a really important lesson: To appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes to get these elite equine athletes to the track, for the sheer joy we get when they’re successful no matter the level of the race.

I continued to ride throughout university, gaining as much experience as I could in the sport, and in particular, getting as much as I could from the stable vet, learning about trot-outs and race exams.

Ultimately, when finishing university, I worked in racetrack practice before transitioning to being a regulatory vet in 2013.

And I first reflected on HISA, or at least its earlier iterations, when meeting Travis Tygart in Newmarket in 2015 whilst in the role of anti-doping manager at the British Horseracing Authority.

As a super keen cyclist and an anti-doping advocate, I’d read pretty much any book I could get my hands on in relation to doping and cycling. So to meet the person who, with his team at USADA, had uncovered one of the greatest doping scandals in sport, it was an amazing opportunity for me personally.

Travis was there to learn and talk about horse racing. I wanted to learn from him about cycling, but I was also super interested in the opportunity for U.S. racing that harmonizing its rules might create.

Whilst at that stage it was still a far-reaching vision, from that meeting forward, I’d always hoped that if it became a reality, I might be privileged enough to be involved in national uniformity in anti-doping and medication control in U.S. racing, something which my friends and family who’ve humored that blue-sky dream I’ve had since 2015 would be able to attest to.

So for me personally to be here today, working for an organization in USADA whose vision and values I absolutely wholeheartedly share, and for the betterment of an industry which has taken me all over the world, given me such joy, and a few broken bones, is a really great honor.

Many of you will be familiar with USADA and the work they do in human sports, but you’re probably wondering what USADA brings to horse racing. USADA’s mission is a really clear one: To stand with athletes to champion their right to clean sport; to inspire true and healthy sport; and to promote the integrity of sport.

Their unwavering support of clean athletes is something I’ve always been really inspired by. And as we look forward to USADA’s vision for building a successful equine anti-doping and medication control program, the principles of its mission absolutely stand true.

Our aspiration is to establish and maintain a uniformed and harmonized program that is centered on promoting and safeguarding the health and welfare of horses and protects the rights of all participants to race clean and win fairly.

Their equine-specific expertise will be critical in achieving this. Combining expertise and experience is a really fantastic opportunity on both the equine and the human side, to integrate knowledge and leverage best practices and standards for the benefits and welfare of clean athletes, whether those athletes be equine or human.

As we look to that future, I’m sure many of you will have considered the possibility of USADA’s role in testing horses under HISA, but there are also other elements such as education, research, results management, and investigations that are all important building blocks of a successful program.

Education is the foundation and backbone of establishing the program, and it will be important and critical to give racing industry the tools and empower those within the industry to champion and live by the ethos of clean racing and, importantly, to continue to demonstrate racing social license to exist as a sport in an ever-evolving world.

Many of you will, of course, immediately jump to detection of doping and misuse of medications. The prevention and deterrents are equally if not more important components to clean sport and something USADA already works hard at instilling in its human sports programs.

The hard work is already underway to turn the vision which saw HISA passed at the end of 2020 into a reality in 2022. Playing our part in the jigsaw, USADA is working alongside the Authority to development and hopefully ultimately implement an equine anti-doping and medication control program with robust rules and regulations, which will bring harmonization and consistency for U.S. racing.

It’s our aspiration, through the hard work of those developing and contributing to those rules and also those of the industry’s participants, that we establish best practices which align with and potentially exceed national and international best practices to ensure U.S. racing remains at the forefront and leads the sport into the future.

I’m sure many of you will appreciate the enormity of the task at hand. Establishing a new and harmonized program is an absolutely huge undertaking. And whilst we’re working absolutely tirelessly to ensure the program is done right, it will likely take time after the program’s start date to fully implement the gold standard that USADA expects and is known for and that the industry needs.

And whilst no final agreement on USADA’s involvement as the enforcement agency is currently in place, USADA and myself personally are absolutely committed to our role in the inception of HISA, whether that ultimately sees USADA running the program or contributing its expertise to the development of harmonizing rules and best practices in anti-doping.

Something that I think is really important and was instilled to me during my military training was the value of selfless commitment and the importance of putting the needs of others before yourself.

For us the context here might be slightly different, but selfless commitment is a value applicable to our role in equine anti-doping, particularly as we navigate the inception of HISA, to commit to advocating and protecting our industry sources and putting the needs of their welfare and safety and of those who ride them first.

Finally, as I conclude, I’d like to reiterate my thanks to The Jockey Club for inviting me to speak today, but also a huge thank you to the U.S. racing industry for embracing the start of these changes.

I think everyone appreciates the enormity of the task, and there are still a number of uncertainties, but a final thought from me in the form of a quote that I think is quite apt: A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, but the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

I think we’re all fairly open to the fact there’s certainly plenty of challenges ahead and changes to embrace as we move forward. But it represents an amazing sliding-doors moment with an opportunity for a cleaner, fairer future for the industry and, most importantly, also a safer one for our beloved equine athletes. Thank you.

CHARLES SCHEELER: I want to thank all of you at The Jockey Club for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Charlie Scheeler, and I am the chair of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority.

A lot of people, including my wife, have asked me, "Why are you doing this?" I was leading a perfectly wonderful life as a semi-retired attorney after 38 years of practicing law when I got a call in March.

To confess, I was not familiar with HISA or more than a casual horse racing fan. I love sports, and I have ever since I was a little kid. I think that just about everything that you need to know in life you can learn from lessons from sports.

And when I was a young teenager, I worked at a camp for dyslexic kids. They had a horse farm there, and I groomed the horses and led the trail rides. And it’s really hard to be around horses for any period of time and not fall in love with them.

So I took a look at the HISA act. And what I saw when I did was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make the sport safer for horses and jockeys; to serve the overwhelming majority of horse people who want to win fairly and who want to play by the rules; to create a rising tide for the horse racing industry, to preserve and enhance its popularity; and to protect a sport that has a rich legacy, dating all the way back 6,000 years ago to the steps of Mongolia.

So I was hooked. And I’ve been involved in a number of reform efforts before, with Major League Baseball and steroids, with the Maryland football program and player safety after the tragic death of a player from heat stroke, from Penn State University after its tragedies with child abuse, and with one of the world’s ten largest corporations after it collapsed following the 2008 financial crisis.

Tolstoy once said that all happy families are alike, yet all unhappy families are different in their own ways. And indeed each of these crises were unique. But they shared one common theme. And that is in each setup, there were incentives for people to not do the right thing.

What we are going to try to do here is realign the incentives in horse racing to pursue two objectives. It’s a coupled entry. First is to serve as a protector of equine safety. And second is to create a uniform, nationwide regulatory system, which rewards those who play by the rules by providing effective penalties to deter those who would be tempted to cheat.

I’ve joked with some folks that we have a great advantage here in horse racing because the horses don’t have a union. But maybe that’s the problem. While human athletes knowingly accept a risk when they cheat, horses don’t have that choice. And while there are a constellation of humans in various organizations across the industry designed to protect horses, the enforcement has been balkanized and uneven. And this disjointed enforcement has hurt the industry.

How are we going to go about achieving these objectives and improving the industry? Well, we have a number of things that we put in place, and we’ve been working hard these past couple of months.

First, we have a strong array of experts on our board. You can review those names and their backgrounds at hisaus.org. I also want to thank Dr. Nancy Cox and Leonard Coleman who led the nominating committee that produced the board whom with I serve. We are deeply appreciative from your efforts early in the year to get this underway.

And we’re getting a lot of help from industry leaders from all across the industry. From TJC, for example, we’ve been blessed with the encyclopedic knowledge of Matthew Iuliano, and I thank him and many others across many organizations who have provided input.

We’ve assembled a small but versatile and talented team led by Hank Zeitlin, who many of you will probably remember as being the former CEO of Equibase, among other positions he’s held in his career in the industry. And this is the group, essentially, that is building the plane.

Meanwhile, we are in the process of kicking off a search for our permanent CEO who will continue the process that these people have started.

There are four main components to what we are building. The first is the anti-doping and medications program. We have a committee led by Adolpho Birch who coordinated the NFL’s drug policy prior to becoming general counsel of the Tennessee Titans in his hometown of Nashville. We’re working with USADA. We’ve had a number of multiday meetings, and we’re putting together a program, and we’re trying to work towards a contract.

Second, we’re working on a safety program, which is chaired by Susan Stover, one of the world’s leading researchers in equine safety from the University of California at Davis. They too have been very busy assembling and reviewing work products of others who have come before them who have looked at safety issues and trying to fashion a best in practice program.

Third, we’re working on constituency outreach. Notwithstanding the powers granted to HISA by Congress, this will only work if we get broad industry buy-in. Our goal is to work with the state racing commissions to enhance safety and integrity, not to displace those commissions.

So we will be reaching out, and we already have started this process, reaching out to the state racing commissions, to the industry groups, to be very inclusive in this process. We understand that culture eats strategy for lunch every day. So we need a culture in this industry which buys in to this new program.

We have to make a convincing case that cooperation and compliance with this new initiative will make the sport more popular and safer by making it more sustainable in the future. We want to encourage compliance with everyone. We want to bring people into compliance. We don’t want to play games of gotcha.

Number four, then, is data. We’re proceeding as economically as possible, accumulating data from TJC and other trusted sources. I assure you that we have no intention of reinventing any wheels. But data will be key to this enterprise. We have the right to obtain appropriate data from all covered persons.

As time goes on, this data will make us better. We will make more informed decisions about who to test and when to test and how to test. We will make more informed decisions about which horses to focus on more than the others in the pre-race veterinary examinations and which trainers and tracks have troubling records, so we have to work with them to improve their records and bring them into compliance.

We won’t have this where we want it to be on day one. But we will continue the job even after July 1st. Our program will not be a static one. It will be one that reacts to the events at the track and on the ground and one that strives for continuous improvement.

Now, how are we going to get there? Here’s what our schedule looks like. As I mentioned, we are working to develop these programs on the anti-doping side and med side on the one hand and on the safety side on the other. We hope to have and we plan to have those programs ready in draft for review by the industry by fall. And then we will share them with all of you and share them publicly and then listen and get your comments.

All of this will be before we submit these proposed rules to the Federal Trade Commission, which is what is required by the act. Once we have your input, before the end of the year, we plan to submit these rules to the FTC, and then they will make them public, publish them in the Federal Register, for a 60-day period of notice and comment. So the industry will get a second bite at the apple, another chance to comment on these rules.

After the 60 days, the FTC will decide whether to approve all or some of these rules. We hope that they approve all the rules that we submit to them, and then they have to be posted and finalized for a four-month period of time. So no later than March 1, 2022, for these rules to become operative on day one, July 2022.

We will also in the late fall and winter be sharing with the state racing commissions our estimates of the costs for the coming year. That is required by the act to occur no later than April 1. But it is our goal to get those numbers to the states months and months in advance of that.

And then, July 1, we will go live together with a new system to enforce the doping and anti-medication laws and to make the tracks safer and to make the sport fairer for everyone.

This isn’t easy. It’s going to be a heavy lift, essentially 13 1/2 months from middle of May, when we had our first board meeting, to create, from nothing, an entire nationwide regulatory system.

But we can do it if the entire industry unites behind this effort. And after three months of this job, I am more convinced than ever that this is exactly what horse racing needs to remain relevant and competitive in a rapidly changing sports marketplace.

This program is going to cost money, and it’s going to cost more money than the industry has traditionally allocated for services such as these. But if you look at the industry today, status quo is not an option.

These program costs should not be looked at as expenses. They should be looked at as investments in strengthening the industry and ensuring its future. It costs money to ensure that the rules are fairly and evenly and effectively applied. It costs money to effectively deter those who would cheat and have the resources and sophisticated means to do so. It costs money to make sure that the racetracks are as safe as they should be, to assure the safety of our equine and human athletes.

The program that we are planning will yield a stronger sport. But this will only work if the industry is prepared to invest in its future.

I submit to you that the potential upside is staggering and is worth the lift. Safer sport means more humane treatment, fewer equine tragedies, and greater public support.

More integrity in the sport means trainers and owners know that they can play fairly, that the track is level, and that those who would be tempted to cheat have strong deterrents to prevent them from doing so.

And more integrity in the sport means betters can bank on a high standard of integrity; that no one else out on the infield or in the stands has superior information about what a horse is having put in its system.

The big winners from all this will be all of you who love the sport. And it will be the sport itself which will have a continuation of its proud and storied history of over 6,000 years.

Thank you for allowing me to speak today, and I look forward to working with all of you towards these goals.

STUART S. JANNEY III: Thank you, Tessa and Charlie.

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