WHOA Advisory Board Says Horseracing Integrity And Safety Authority Will Flounder Without USADA
by Water Hay Oats Alliance Advisory Board
The Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA) is a grassroots movement of like-minded individuals who support the passage of federal legislation to prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport of horse racing. The appointment of an independent anti-doping program run by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) will resolve the problem of widespread drug use in American racing and put U.S. racing jurisdictions in step with international standards.
Doping destroys public confidence in racing, defrauds the betting fan, weakens the genetic pool, and, most importantly, puts the life and limb of our equine athletes and their jockeys at risk. It is obvious that after years of committee review and discussion, America’s racing industry cannot police itself by eliminating the proliferation of performance-enhancing drugs in our sport, nor does it possess the power to adequately punish the purveyors of these drugs.
It was the summer of 2012…
Our original team of supporters had just returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., lobbying for drug and medication reform in U.S. racing. The legislation then was entitled The Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act of 2011 sponsored by Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY). It called to amend the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 (IHA). After that trip, it was obvious that the racing industry would never support those measures, so we began discussions with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to help address the intractable issue of doping in racing.
We decided that our individual voices would make a greater impact if we banded together under one umbrella, with one voice. It was crystal clear that our goal would be to find a way to put USADA in a place of independent management and oversight.
That was the beginning of the Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA). Over time, owners, breeders, trainers, jockeys, and industry professionals joined our ranks. We included racing fans and handicappers, partners in our sport. We included members of all racing disciplines: Thoroughbred, Standardbred, and Quarter Horse racing.
Since that time, USADA has played an integral role as a valued partner in efforts to pass the industry-shifting reform legislation that created HISA. USADA chief executive officer Travis Tygart and his team have shared their time and expertise, often at their own expense, educating countless individuals and racing industry groups about the importance of clean sport and what USADA’s gold standard program could do to better racing.
Today, WHOA has grown from that handful of advocates to over 2,000 industry stakeholders: over 850 owners and breeders, 950 industry professionals, and a host of racing fans and handicappers.
Since that original bill, there have been five variations of legislation to address doping in horse racing. With each variation, WHOA’s simple mission statement stood the test. As long as the legislation met our mission with the placement of USADA, WHOA supported it.
When the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act was passed in December 2020, we all celebrated. Our mission was complete. The legislation named USADA, an independent third party, as the entity to serve as “the anti-doping and medication control enforcement agency.”
But, not so fast…
In late December, negotiations between HISA and USADA stalled. The legislative compromise that WHOA supported – to put USADA in their rightful place with a five-year contract – has been aborted. HISA is looking for other options and interviewing other entities to fill USADA’s place.
“What a shame. What a travesty. What are the insurmountable issues that would preclude a five-year contract between USADA and HISA?” asked international owner and breeder George Strawbridge.
“I was so disappointed to see the breakdown of talks between HISA and USADA. There is no other agency that will handle testing as thoroughly as USADA, we need to get them back to the table so they can clean up our sport.” said leading Classic trainer Graham Motion.
Michael Engleman, a horseman, and former international cyclist, lamented, “Like so many others across the world, I was extremely disappointed to read the news of HISA suspending talks with USADA. The reality is that for U.S. racing there is no legitimate and globally respected alternative to USADA. Anything less than USADA just shows that we are not serious about making honest and real change for what is best for racing, the racing fans and the horses we all love.”
Members of WHOA have reached out to both parties asking for an explanation of the stalemate and offering to help bridge the gap. To date, no light has been shed on the subject. The industry deserves to know what the issues are that caused the impasse. “Don’t live in the problem, live in the solution.” In this case, without understanding the problem, we can’t help find a solution.
WHOA’s support of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act hinged on the fact that currently there is no other “entity that is nationally recognized as being a medication regulation agency equal in qualification to the United States Anti-Doping Agency.” We challenge HISA to find another agency that meets USADA’s program criteria. THERE IS NONE.
“We need USADA now. Time is of the essence to put an end to doping in racing.” said Triple Crown winning jockey Steve Cauthen.
Members of WHOA do not feel that HISA has the expertise or luxury of time to build or piecemeal together an entity that would come close to doing what USADA does so well. It is a well-oiled machine. There is a level of trust that USADA stands its ground for what is right. It will not be swayed by outside parties. It is truly independent.
Owner, breeder Bill Casner believes that “without the years of expertise that USADA provides, HISA would basically be trying to reinvent the wheel. It will be floundering, trying to deal with the sophistication of the cheaters. We have to get USADA on board.”
WHOA will continue to endorse the independent turn-key program USADA brings to the table. Their scientists are respected at the highest levels. USADA’s drug testing capabilities exceed that of any other agency in the field. They have been involved in drug testing, results management, and adjudication longer and at a higher level than any other organization. USADA utilizes advancing sciences to look for new performance-enhancing drugs to stay ahead of the cheater and uses data analysis to catch them and provide a fair process. USADA is a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), giving it access to the best global anti-doping practices and science.
“USADA’s knowledge of drug testing exceeds that of any other agency in the field. They have been involved in drug testing longer and at a higher level than any other agency. There is a major difference between testing at the Olympic level than the NFL, for example.” said Barry Irwin of Team Valor.
“USADA has been at the heart of WHOA’s efforts from the beginning. We all appreciate that changing a culture and a system will be challenging and expensive. But desperate times call for desperate measures.” said Staci Hancock, WHOA’s managing member. “Racing’s reputation and future depend on bold changes for the betterment of our sport and the health and well-being of our horses. USADA can give us that, putting an end to business as usual with broken systems and cronyism. We can’t afford anything less.”
“I don’t think the horse industry realizes the plight it is in, and it desperately needs the integrity of USADA to help shore up its sad reputation. Cheaters are still cheating, horses are still dying, and public perception is still worsening,” added Arthur Hancock of Stone Farm.