‘It’s a major step forward:’ Group discusses importance of Horse Racing Integrity & Safety Act


In this image provided by Hodges Photography, Hot Rod Charlie, left, with Joel Rosario aboard, wins the 108th running of the $1,000,000 Grade II Louisiana Derby horse race at the Fair Grounds Race Course, Saturday, March 20, 2021, in New Orleans. (Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography via AP)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDKY) – Horse racing—a sport rich in history, fame, and a good bit of controversy.

“We’re not against horse racing, but we are against doping,” said Marty Irby, the executive director of Animal Wellness Action.

Leading the fight for federal legislation in horse racing, Irby has been working to put an end to horse doping.

“The Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act being signed into law December 27 of last year is definitely the greatest thing I’ve ever been involved in for protecting horses. It’s the first federal horse protection measure in 49 years,” Irby said.

While the nation waits to hear the fate of Medina Spirit, whether his win on the track will remain in the record books, Irby says once the new legislation goes into effect, confusion regarding testing and racing across state lines will be a thing of the past.

“It first of all bans all drugs on race day. It also provides for out of competition testing. So if an incident, like what happened with the Derby testing occurred, it could have possibly been picked up before the Derby, with out of competition testing,” Irby said.

The new legislation also creates one overseeing board to regulate races nationwide.

“You know, the Kentucky Racing Commission in one jurisdiction, the Maryland Racing Commission in another jurisdiction and the controversy between the two leading up to even the third race had Medina Spirit won in New York,” Irby said.

Irby is fighting for the safety of athletes who can’t fight for themselves.

“I think it’s going to run more efficiently and I think we’re going to see some really meaningful penalties implemented,” Irby said.

The legislation goes into effect in 2022.

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