The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is unconstitutional, the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday.
The New Orleans, La., triumvirate reverses a previous decision that dismissed the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA) challenge that the law is unconstitutional because it delegates legislative authority to a private organization and individuals. The states of Texas, Louisiana and West Virginia also were plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority is responsible for implementing anti-doping and racetrack safety protocols, regulations and penalties. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), a private organization, is enforcing the drug control program. The law, which was passed as part of the Dec. 21, 2020, COVID-19 stimulus bill, was a response from federal lawmakers after a series of doping scandals and equine racetrack fatalities.
“A cardinal constitutional principle is that federal power can be wielded only by the federal government,” writes Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan for the three-judge panel. “Private entities may do so only if they are subordinate to an agency. … But the Authority is not subordinate to the [Federal Trade Commission]. The reverse is true. The Authority, rather than the FTC, has been given final say over HISA’s programs. … We must therefore declare HISA facially unconstitutional.”
The court’s order remands the case back to the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Texas. The Authority plans to review the case, which could be taken up by the full U.S. Courts of Appeals or appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“While HISA is disappointed by the Fifth Circuit’s decision, we remain confident in HISA’s constitutionality and will be seeking further review of this case,” according to a statement from Charles Scheeler, chair of the Authority’s board of directors. “If today’s ruling were to stand, it would not go into effect until Jan. 10, 2023, at the earliest. We are focused on continuing our critical work to protect the safety and integrity of Thoroughbred racing, including the launch of HISA’s Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program on Jan. 1, 2023.”
The NHBPA applauded the court’s ruling.
“On behalf of the NHBPA, I can assure you that we will be following this development closely and support the power reverting back into the hands of the state racing commissions,” according to a statement from Eric Hamelback, CEO of the NHBPA. “We are very appreciative of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals for the thorough analysis and opinion. We also thank the many industry stakeholders who supported us in our effort to ensure that horsemen are not subject to an unconstitutional law.”