'Transparency gaps'? Federal rules proposal keeps changing

'Transparency gaps'? Federal rules proposal keeps changing

When the proposed rules from the newly created Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority were released on Nov. 11, the authority said in a release that the proposal was not final and would be tweaked after public comment before being sent to the Federal Trade Commission. Unsaid was that the proposed rules would be changed on the fly, and older versions removed, without public notification.

To start, the list of proposed rules is now longer. On Nov. 11, when they were first revealed, a PDF of the proposed regulations was 66 pages.

Related: Drugs, crops and claims: Inside the newly proposed HISA rules

On Friday, a PDF downloaded from the same location on the HISA website was 154 pages. On Saturday, it had grown to 158. A side-by-side comparison of Friday and Saturday’s documents can be seen here.

Many of the post-unveil rules get into the granular details of laboratory standards for drug testing. From Friday to Saturday, the changes largely took place in the racetrack safety rules, along with an added section on disciplinary hearings and accreditation procedures.

The HISA authority responded to an interview request from Horse Racing Nation with a statement acknowledging that the rules had been changed since initial publication.

“The Racetrack Safety and Anti-Doping & Medication Control Standing Committees have been reviewing and incorporating feedback and comments on the rules that were posted on (Nov. 11) on an ongoing basis,” the statement read. “These will be presented to the Board of Directors for approval prior to formal submission to the (Federal Trade Commission) for an additional public comment period.”

The statement also said the authority will discuss changes to the rules on Tuesday at the University of Arizona’s global racing symposium.

A perceived lack of transparency in the process for creating and updating the rules by the HISA authority has raised concerns in the racing community, notably by the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which is currently embroiled in a federal lawsuit to try to stop implementation of the bill.

“Regrettably, the National HBPA believes that the HISA implementation process does not have the proper advisors or resources to make this transition happen by July 1, 2022, just seven months from now,” National HBPA president Doug Daniels said in a statement to HRN. “The National HBPA and its members are extremely concerned that the current glaring policy and transparency gaps in the draft regulations will do harm to equine athletes and to the horse racing industry.”

Notable changes made since the initial publication of the proposed rules included the elimination of a cap on the purse for claiming race. Under the regulation, such a race’s purse could be no more than 1.6 times the claiming price of the horse.

Related: Horsemen balk at fed proposal to limit claiming-race purses

Opponents of the rule claimed it would cause harm to the lower levels of owners and trainers and to smaller tracks. Similar criticisms had been levied at another proposal that would have let tracks that do not host a graded stakes race opt out of having a safety officer.

That exemption has been removed. In addition, the safety officer’s responsibilities were updated, with the wording altered.

Under the proposed rules in the original document, to get off the veterinarian’s list, a horse had to complete a five-furlong documented workout in 1:03 or better. That requirement has been removed in what appeared to be a rewrite of the veterinarian’s list section of the rules.

In his statement, Daniels reiterated the HBPA’s belief that the authority is acting illegally. He said the organization believes the rules need to be redone.

“The National HBPA remains deeply concerned by and opposed to these draft regulations,” Daniels said. “We believe they need substantial revisions by people who are experienced and knowledgeable in the industry.”

Public comment remains open on the HISA regulations website, where a current version of the rules can be downloaded. The final version of the rules is scheduled to go into effect on July 1.

The originally proposed rules can be seen below.

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