Horse racing’s new antidoping program won’t get underway until after the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in mid-May, according to an order issued Thursday by the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC, which oversees the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, pushed back the new Anti-Doping and Medication Control program by three weeks until May 22. HISA had planned to re-launch the program on May 1, the start of Kentucky Derby week, after a judge's ruling in early April delayed the start until then.
“I share the concerns that the FTC articulated in their order,” Lisa Lazarus, CEO of HISA, told The Associated Press by phone.
If the program had started on May 1, pre-race drug testing for the Kentucky Derby would have been conducted under Kentucky Horse Racing Commission rules and state laboratory standards, while post-race testing would have been done under HISA's new rules.
“To break it up like that is very unfair to horsemen, especially considering it's the most high-profile race of the year,” Lazarus told the AP. “It’s more important that the critical thinking be put into the right time to bring it back.”
The Derby will be run May 6 in Louisville. The Preakness is May 20 in Baltimore.
HISA first began the ADMC program, which covers rules for drug testing, drug sampling, out-of-competition testing, rulings, and penalties, on March 27.
“The very first week of March 27 was very successful and went smoothly,” Lazarus said.
But a few days later a judge ruled that the program could not be implemented without a 30-day waiting period in a decision that was a victory for the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which has pushed back against HISA.
The HBPA and other groups have filed multiple lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of HISA.
The FTC ruling said the May 22 re-start would “avoid the chaos and confusion that could occur if the anti-doping rule became effective on May 1, during the lead-up to the Triple Crown races scheduled during May.” It also said the delay would “ensure that the horseracing industry has sufficient time to prepare for the anti-doping rule to be effective.”
Lazarus said: “I would have felt a little uncomfortable with the May 1 start with two different rules in place.”
HISA had sought the quick rollout, which would have had the antidoping rules in place for five weeks before the Kentucky Derby.
The delay means the state racing commissions will remain in charge of their drug-testing programs through May 21.
As a result, if a horse tests positive in the Derby or the Preakness, racing officials in Kentucky and Maryland will hear the case, decide on punishment and handle any appeals under their existing rules.
The Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown, will be run June 10 in New York under HISA's rules.
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