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Cold Turkey?

The Blood-Horse takes on the drug issue with some incisive commentary and sensible suggestions. Ray Paulick is quite correct when he suggests that the general public has no idea that steroids are perfectly legal in US racing. Indeed, when I lived in the UK it was quite easy to shock people by telling them that all sorts of drug cocktails were acceptable in the States — most fans couldn’t even imagine that Lasix was commonly used are were very disdainful of that fact.

Race fixing might be a problem across the pond, but it was received wisdom that juicing your athlete was bad for the sport as a whole (not to mention the knock-on effects on the breed) and the individual involved in particular. Paulick perhaps sums it up best here:

…the only steroid scandal in racing is that they are legal.

Barry Irwin also has some suggestions on how to tackle the existing problem of some trainers giving their charges a chemical edge; while they are interesting ideas, I would suggest that the problem is deeper than that and should be examined more closely. The following questions need answers:

  • Who decides why do we allow some drugs and not others?
  • Are the ‘legal’ drugs being used therapeutically or as an ‘enhancement’ — and who has the final authority?
  • Why should each state have its own list of approved and banned substances?
  • Why should trainers with a particular reputation for drug use not be shamed out of the market?
  • Should horses who could only race successfully on medication be labeled as such for auction or breeding purposes? If so, how would this be documented (rather than simply rumored)?

Clearly, vets and owners should have the final say on what is the correct course of action to take with an ill or injured horse who requires medical treatment. I would argue that once such possibilities are ruled out, however, that consistently finishing behind horses with more raw talent is not an illness requiring treatment. The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium has done fine work, but I would like to see a more international group weigh in on the subject — if compelling arguments from vets in countries with zero tolerance policies could be heard, it could help the US at least get on the road to little tolerance.

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1 comment to Cold Turkey?

  • John (AKA Not Too Swift)

    Color me cynical but getting the industry to see the benefits of organic racing isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Nice post.

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