I want to thank Senator Udall for requesting this hearing, and I further commend him for his tireless work on this subject. Horse racing is a noble sport and an economic driver in West Virginia, and I know many who work in the industry care about the health of their horses.
Unfortunately, the inappropriate use of otherwise therapeutic medication in racehorses has long been a problem that has plagued the sport. Medication such as phenylbuterol or "bute" can legitimately help in the healing process of an ailing horse. But when bute is used to mask pain on an unsound horse so that he or she can race on the track, the drug becomes an abusive practice that puts the life of the horse and jockey at risk. Other drugs, such as cobra venom or demorphine, which is a powerful painkiller recently discovered in over 30 horses in 4 different states and is found on the skin of South American tree frogs, have absolutely no therapeutic value and are used purely to cheat. Any trainer caught using these types of cruel drugs should be banned from the sport.
In 1978, Congress passed the Interstate Horseracing Act into law, and as a result, racetracks around the country have the benefit of simulcasting their racing signals and accepting interstate wagers. Despite bestowing this unique status on the racing industry, Congress did not impose any standards that address the integrity of the sport, nor the welfare of jockeys, horses or fans. This Committee has jurisdiction over the Interstate Horseracing Act and was instrumental in its passage. The law was authored by the former Chairman of this Committee, Senator Magnuson. As the current Chairman of the Commerce Committee, I am prepared to examine whether or not racetracks continue to deserve this unique federal privilege. The federal government is already involved in this issue, and it is perfectly reasonable to expect the industry to adhere to uniform standards that protect jockeys, horses, and racing fans.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses, and I hope today's hearing begins a constructive dialogue to find solutions to problems that regrettably haunt this very noble sport. Thank you.