Rep. Pitts Statement on Steroids in Horse Racing
Opening statement for Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection hearing
Congressman Joe Pitts (PA-16) gave the following opening statement today during a hearing of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection. The hearing, entitled "Drugs in Sports: Compromising the Health of Athletes and Undermining the Integrity of Competition" included testimony regarding the use of steroids in horse racing.
An excerpt of Congressman Pitts' statement follows:
"Humans who use steroids have a choice about whether or not to use those substances, and subsequently, whether or not to damage their health. In horse racing, horses never have a say when they are injected with any type of performance-enhancing drug, and they are helpless against the abuse. Unfortunately, horses do have to suffer through the negative health effects of any forcible steroid injections they receive.
"Randy Moss, an ESPN Horse Analyst on the National Thoroughbred Racing Blog, wrote on December 19, 2007, Thoroughbred racing should have reacted at the first hint of widespread steroid abuse in other sports. After all, the same types of anabolic steroids are commonly used on racehorses, and some prominent trainers even insist the sport will suffer if steroid use is prohibited. The message needs to be loud and clear: horses should not be allowed to run with anabolic steroids in their systems. Long term health issues associated with steroids are even more toxic for racing, since horses don't have a say what goes into their bodies.'
"One academic expert on pharmacology indicated that the New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania, which is in my Congressional District, that they did spot checks of racehorses and discovered that 60 percent of those horses tested positive for steroids.
"Proactive protection by racing commissions and various horse associations against abuse of horses should help address this reportedly widespread problem. According to one report, Bennett Liebman, Racing Expert and Instructor at Albany Law School believes that, Steroid racing is rampant and has been for years.' It is important that the appropriate organizations examine the scope of steroid use and abuse of horses so the issue can be properly addressed.
"I commend the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission for their new program that is scheduled to begin on April 1, 2008, to test horses for steroid use in order to stop this practice and provide a more level, more fair competition for competitors, let alone a more healthy and safe environment for horses.
"I look forward to hearing from our distinguished witnesses today, particularly regarding the positive, proactive steps their associations will be taking to help end the use of drugs in sports. As far as the race horse industry is concerned, I hope the second panel will answer the question of what the extent of the federal government's oversight role should be in monitoring the abuse of horses. Athletes and racehorses deserve to be recognized for winning well through hard work, skill, and determination, not through drug abuse."