HISA: Growing Momentum and the Road Ahead

07.08.21

The world of horse racing will soon be changing for the better – in fact, significant progress is already underway.

In 2020, the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition, its members, and other industry leaders worked diligently to encourage broad and bipartisan support for the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, a landmark piece of legislation to regulate horse racing. The legislation, passed by Congress and signed into law late last year, marks the single biggest health and safety achievement in the sport’s history. The legislation formally established the independent Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (the Authority) with a mandate to codify a culture of safety and integrity for our sport via uniform rules and standards, which reflects the founding mission of the Coalition.

Since then, the Authority has been busy finding and appointing the best and brightest, from both inside and outside of the racing industry, to its board of directors, Anti-Doping and Medication Control Standing Committee, and Racetrack Safety Standing Committee. And momentum is continuing to build towards July 2022 when the Authority, in partnership with the United States Anti-Doping Agency, will officially begin regulating thoroughbred horse racing in the United States.

In the time since the blue-ribbon nominating committee announced members of the board and standing committees, the Authority has made two exciting announcements in quick succession. First, Charles Scheeler was elected chairman during the inaugural meeting of the board of directors. Scheeler’s impressive background, which includes serving as lead counsel to former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell during the independent investigation of performance-enhancing substance use in Major League Baseball, among other notable accomplishments, makes him an ideal leader to ensure the integrity of racing and the safety of both equine and human athletes. Scheeler made his guiding principles clear upon news of his appointment, stating, “[The Authority] will deliver on our goals and fill the long-standing need for national oversight of this storied sport to ensure it can be enjoyed for generations to come.”

The Authority also tapped Hank Zeitlin to serve as Interim Executive Director through 2021 while the Authority conducts a nationwide search to fill the role permanently. Like Scheeler, Zeitlin has a proven track record, and his extensive knowledge of the industry and best practices for both safety and integrity make him an ideal first leader as the Authority seeks to build its anti-doping and medication control and racetrack safety programs. Zeitlin was most recently the executive vice president and a member of the board of directors at the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) and president and member of the board of directors of the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau which provides integrity services for thoroughbred racing and wagering. Perhaps most notably, Zeitlin led the effort to update and expand the NTRA’s Safety & Integrity Alliance’s Code of Standards from 2020 to 2021, leading three different teams of experts in establishing best practices in anti-doping and medication control, racing safety, and racetrack surface maintenance.

These recent developments are encouraging, but Coalition members recognize there is plenty of hard work ahead: more standards to set, more reforms to implement, more investigative and enforcement mechanisms to establish, better testing protocols to carry out, and more minds to change. The Coalition looks forward to working with the Authority to ensure the safety of our horses and jockeys and protect the integrity of the sport. Horse racing is at a turning point – and under HISA and the Authority, the future of the sport is bright.