A Little Tolerance - By Dan Liebman

The unwritten rule has always been that police officers won’t stop you if you are driving five miles over the speed limit. You might call it their “threshold level.”

As the case of trainer Steve Asmussen clearly illustrates, the Thoroughbred industry is in need of medication threshold levels.

On July 16 Lone Star Park stewards, following Texas Racing Commission guidelines, suspended Assmussen for six months (and fined him $1,500) for a medication positive dating back to May 2008, when the filly Timber Trick’s spit box urine test showed a metabolite of the local anesthetic lidocaine.

Asmussen, who has appealed, has denied administering the drug, and his request to have the filly’s blood tested was denied because Texas has a zero-tolerance policy, thus making the level of the drug irrelevant.

It is relevant, however, because the blood level might prove whether the drug was administered or the positive was due to contamination.

In a perfect world, zero tolerance might work. But this is far from a perfect world, and zero tolerance doesn’t work.

In 2000 Bob Baffert was facing a similar suspension, though for a much stronger drug, after a filly he trained, Nautical Look, won an allowance race at Hollywood Park and tested positive for morphine. Dr. Steven Barker, chief state chemist for the Louisiana Racing Commission, testified the amount of morphine in Nautical Look was 73 billionths of one gram.

Barker testified at Asmussen’s hearing as well and stated he believed the positive to be consistent with contamination.

After nearly five years of fighting the charges, Baffert was exonerated after testimony before an administrative law judge showed that during May and June 2000, 13 of 95 samples were deemed to be “suspect” for opiates, which seemed to indicate environmental contamination.

Dr. B. William Bell, the California Horse Racing Board veterinarian, testified the amount of morphine found in the filly was, “pharmacologically insignificant and most likely due to environmental contamination.”

California has probably had more cases that fit this bill than any other state. Trainer Bobby Frankel had two horses in 2001 test positive for small amounts of morphine, but the charges were dropped after the now infamous “poppy seed” defense. Indeed, studies have proved the ingestion of poppy seed bagels or poppy seed cake can produce false positives for morphine.

In 1989, charges were dropped against California trainers D. Wayne Lukas, Laz Barrera, Albert Barrera, Anthony Hemmerick, and Bryan Webb after accusations that horses they trained were positive for cocaine or its principal metabolite. It was believed the testing samples were contaminated.

In another California case, trainers Richard Mandella, Ron McAnally, Willard Proctor, Mark Hennig, Lewis Cenicola, and Bill Shoemaker were absolved of wrong doing after 1994 positives for scopolamine in post-race urine samples. The trainers proved the depressant was traced to the presence of jimsonweed in stall bedding.

Now comes the case of Asmussen, the leading trainer in the country last year by wins (a record 622) and atop that category again so far this year; the man who guided Curlin through two Horse of the Year campaigns and now oversees the training of the brilliant filly Rachel Alexandra.

There is no arguing about what zero- or no-tolerance means or that those who support it are trying to rid the sport of cheaters, but it doesn’t separate the cheaters from those unfairly tainted by contamination positives.

If the blood levels were tested, we would know if Asmussen indeed administered lidocaine to the filly, and, therefore, whether he should be punished by such a harsh penalty. Should the blood test indicate contamination, a more appropriate punishment of 15 or 30 days could be ordered.

In the Baffert case the administrative law judge stated, “These facts and (Baffert’s) success as a trainer support the conclusion he had nothing to gain and a great deal to lose by the use of a banned substance on this horse.”

The same could be said today of Steve Asmussen.

70 Comments

Leave a Comment:

da3hoss

Going 5 miles over speed limit is apples to drugs' oranges. A better example is .081 on a blood alcohol test...over is over.

Your examples are legit, though...the best example is the traces of bute found in Dancer's Image...legal at most tracks, not Churchill and later demonstrated to not enhance performance...now that's a hefty price to pay.

21 Jul 2009 4:03 PM
afleetalexforever

Seems like a spot on assessment of the situation. Sad to say it seems as if someone is taking a shot at Asmussen, no one is saying he's perfect but a person does have the right to a fair trial.

21 Jul 2009 4:10 PM
sweet terchi

With the history of contamination in samples, it would only make sense to pull both samples at the initial test. If the urine is positive, test the blood and if the result is positive, then bring out the penalty hammer.

21 Jul 2009 4:20 PM
edzepplin

Zero tolerance of substances that have no performance enhancing properties might be harsh but sometimes those substances have "masking" properties to keep from testing the real substance. Horsemen, Vets and chemist are very smart and look for any edge or loophole.

21 Jul 2009 4:37 PM
racehorserob

Asmussen is a black eye to the sport of horse racing Remember the acepromazine positive in New Mexico,the Mepicane positive at Evangeline downs the list goes on and on with this guy.He said he didn't administer the drug well no joke one of his vets did. So what he's the leading trainer he's bad for the sport he's an habitual offender rule him off for life then maybe the public would believe that horseracing is an honest sport

21 Jul 2009 6:19 PM
noholme

make the problem go away: no race-day medication whatsoever. zero tolerance. three strikes and your out. then there will be no 'contamination.' you can bet on it.

21 Jul 2009 6:43 PM
CRob87

"If" it is because of contamination, then Why should he still be punished for 15-30 days ???

Why punish him "At All" if it's Not his fault ???

21 Jul 2009 8:27 PM
Tim G

Problem with contamination, like in the case of Laz, Wayne et al is the amount of cocaine was LESS than what is found on a hundred $ bill.

So what do you do? Not allow any one to touch ANY feed, hay, rakes etc without gloves?

They get paid, cash their checks there you go. They make a bet, cash the ticket, there you go.

Contamination is something that is very difficult to control with SOME substances because they are out there in society and can truly be accidental contamination cases. Some though, are being used in the barn or else where is it coming from?

Repeated violators with MAJOR suspensions? None of us in racing like to see or hear of that.

Steve's last suspension? Just turned the horses over to Scott, big deal.

Violations in NM, TX and Louisiana?

He has too many horses to track or doesn't track them as well as some of the guys of the past did with their big stables.

Either he's unlucky, careless, thinks he's above it all because he DOES have the big horses and the huge barns, is a target, needs new employees or not sure what. What I am sure of is this gets the attention of the NON-Racing public, the casual fan. Heck even saw a question on Yahoo answers about it.

21 Jul 2009 9:00 PM
Mike Relva

If I had my way,Asmussen would be banned for life,period! Racing would be better served without him.

21 Jul 2009 9:42 PM
dhussey

racehorserob is right. This guy, Asmussen, has a laundry list of positives a mile long. Its guys like him, Dutrow, Lake, Pletcher,Mullins and other cheaters that are ruining the game. The sad thing is you guys, the print media, keep defending these thieves.

21 Jul 2009 10:18 PM
eliz

If we are going to go as far as to condemn the "big dogs" of training and racing, we need to keep in mind the smaller ones as well.

Working on the backstretch of the underrated tracks, and some just below the big dog level, I've seen it all. It amazes me the lack of policing on this issue and how easily the drug issue is covered up.

We need to have a uniform policy and not just "spotlight" the "Baffarts, Assmussens, and Lukas'", etc.

Yes, it was very sad indeed to see the vets involved with the code words participating in feel good drugs. We need to get to the root of the problem and work from the ground up. Don't these people deserve the same consequences for their actions? Just because they are not noticed or in the spotlight is no excuse.

21 Jul 2009 11:19 PM
binky mcfadden

Lidocaine is not orally administered, it is injected.  You cloud the issue with the positive scopolamine cases which can result from jimsonweed contamination in hay. The half-life of lidocaine is also relatively short so there is no reason to have any amount present unless it has been administered recently.

The chances of "incidental" lidocaine contamination in the barn area are about as likely as contamination by driving your horse's trailer by a dentist's office.

Assumussen is successful and his questionable reputation is also well earned.

21 Jul 2009 11:27 PM
Greatbigtogadaddy

God.. the morons abound still..This is my sport and I abhor cheating. Let's encourage the authorities and help direct them to catch real cheaters. False positives based on contamination must be examined throughly. Texas currently does not allow that. What is wrong with examining exculpatory evidance. The authorities in Texas are Axxholes for not working with the trainer to help him clear his name. They operate the same way in their criminal courts and believe me, their crime rate is nothing to brag about.  

Finally, I find it offensive that in America, the accused is guilty before all the evidence is in...shame on you for living like that. it is Un-American.

Think about this, what door does the EXONERATED ACCUSED  knock on to regain his reputation. WILL ANY OF THE ACCUSERS APOLIGIZE?...I did'nt think so.

21 Jul 2009 11:33 PM
sceptre

Neither am I a toxicologist, nor are you. Your piece offers essentially only one side of the argument-Asmussen's. Did you bother to review the trial testimony-from all parties?  Your annecdotal offerings about Baffert, Mott, etc. do little to persuade one of Asmussen's innocence. For all we know (from your accounts)each could have gotten off on a technicality. One could easily offer anecdotes to the contrary-for ex.- is there any doubt that at one time each trainer did, in fact, allow an illegal substance to be administered; including an Asmussen?..We didn't hear the Texas' labs (yes they did evaluate a cross sample at another lab) side of this; their methodology, etc., or the full rationale for the procedure in the first place. Without knowing more of the facts, don't you think it best that we stay out of this?    

22 Jul 2009 1:24 AM
JOE D

ASSUMUSSEN & DUTROW BEEN GETTING AWAY WITH THIS FOR YEARS . STOP LASIX WHICH WILL STOP THE MASKING OF ALL DRUGS. THESE ARE ONLY WHAT YOU HEAR ABOUT, IMAGINE ALL THEY GET AWAY WITH. ANSWER STOP LASIX IT WILL STOP ALOT OF THE BS.

22 Jul 2009 9:29 AM
Sharon

Topical lidocaine exists.  I've had to use it before to numb wounds on me before scrubing it clean.  Also, anyone who thinks that all hay is pure hay with no weeds must be smoking something funky.  Poppies grow wild in many states and can be found even in high quality hay bales.  Anything from jimsomweek to poison ivy to marijuana can be occasionally found in hay bales.  Horses don't live in sterile environments.  Contaminents can come from any place, any item, at any time.  Zero-tolerance rules make horseracing a laughingstock just as much as the legit positive tests do.

22 Jul 2009 10:06 AM
jenny1951

Bute does enhance performance...it masks pain. I've seen unsound horses move up many lengths when bute is administered. All drugs should be banned; it was a sorry day for racing when NY caved and allowed lasix and bute. The breed is so much less durable and sound than it was 40 years ago. Just read about how often the great ones raced. Horses should race clean or not race at all.

22 Jul 2009 10:14 AM
needler in Virginia

jenny1951, while I applaud your desire to return to the "good old days", the truth of it is that those days were pretty awful. Don't kid yourself that the "old-timers" raced their horses drug free; they raced their horses (either to win OR lose) with as many gimmicks as possible...... milkshakes, sponges, morphine....you name it, they used it. NOT ALL TRAINERS, though, so don't everyone jump on me at once! There was little or no "testing" for anything, so a return to those days is NOT acceptable. The zero tolerance policy in Texas sounds like a throwing out of the baby with the bath water. It IS possible to get weird readings on tests ....let's face it: barns are dirty places, filled with strange substances that came in on a coat tail, a bale of hay, a bird's feather or a cat's foot. Anything can have caused the false reading on the Asmussen horse, but it does strike me as odd that Mr Asmussen has had a looooong string of strange readings and "false" positives .........maybe too many?? Possibly using two independent labs on the samples would help solve the problem, but CLEARLY ANY positive must be investigated with great diligence. And, frankly, I don't give a rat's behind if it costs more. How great is the cost when the racing kahunas ignore positives in favor of the trainer because "he's a really nice guy" or because he had "nothing to gain" by breaking the rules?? THAT cost is too great to ignore.

Yes, the "great ones" raced a lot.....far more than most TB's today. Those horses were an entirely different breed than the one we see today; just take a look at the body types and construction of  the old style TB. Today's TB's are bred for early speed and an early retirement to the breeding shed. The famed runners of the past were bred to race, and THEN retire to the shed when the racing days were well and truly done.....they had more stamina and durability because they were bred for it. NOT every stallion sired thousands of foals; not every mare was bred every year because not every stallion should have been bred, nor every mare pregnant for the rest of her life. Those days are gone, and won't be back.....more's the pity. Most stallions today are viewed as walking ATM's.

Nope, all in all, I think the big kahunas are on the right track, but there MUST be a reasonable, sensible approach to the problem of drugs. I still think it is the NO DRUG standard that must be applied, as that policy would let everyone know that NOTHING should be in the system other than the normal components of blood....NOTHING. That way, we won't be faced with the Asmussen problem or the Dutrow problem or the Who's-next-in-the-box problem. If an animal needs to be given ANYTHING to race on any given day, that animal should not race....period.

22 Jul 2009 12:41 PM
schabelli

At least when R. Dutrow gets busted he leaves no doubt. The sport is riddled with the use of illegal substances.

That being said no fault policies have no place in a civilzed society. There are always going to be circumstances that come up beyond the control of people. If there can be shown a compelling reason why something came up positive by no fault of the connections it should not be held against them. In comparison I have a close friend who lost his job because the jerks he worked for had a no fault attendance/tardiness policy. He was witness to a serious car accident where somebody was killed and the police needed him to stick around for a statement. As a result he was very late to work. Granted this wasn't his first infraction but any sane person should have had a litle compasion. The cops wouldn't let him go. This occurence put him over the limit. One of the other occurences happened when he had a flat tire on the way to work and was 1 minute late to punch in. Where they should have given consideration they chose to play god. Now he's out of a job and the means to support his family. The company let him go citing there no fault policy on tardiness/absenteeism. What happened to this society? Put the wrong people in charge and this is what you end up with. Wars on lies and stupid policy makers.

22 Jul 2009 12:47 PM
Tim G

Yes there is topical lidocaine. Yes it can be absorbed through the skin into the blood stream.

The difference between it and other medications is it is allowed in ZERO levels on race day. THAT is what Dan is speaking of. Other training meds have a certain acceptable trace levels which are predictably present for a while after usage. Unfortunately, lidocaine, even if they prove it was a trace amount? It doesn't matter. The rules are clearly written.

Thing is too, some of the big trainers with the huge numbers of horses they have/had? You are going to see an occasional issue, law of averages. I just think that Steve's history is what is at question here.

Some that you guys mention? Isolated issues over extremely long careers, sadly it can happen to the best person.

For those of you talking about banning meds? Get real. Race day? Maybe? But I'm going to bet you haven't seen an untreated bleeder (who may have never bled before)after a race. Even the healthiest of humans are often on some kind of maintenance medication. Something that KEEPS a more severe problem from occuring (those of you who take synthroid, do you really know WHY you're taking it other than the underactive thyroid? THE complications that arise from the condition ie co-morbidity?)

Back 40 years ago? You think there were no meds? Get real.

Horses more fragile? Humans live longer now but there's a whole new myriad of issues, lets see uhhh obesity, anyone?

This isn't a perfect world and humans aren't robots so you really cannot control the actions of every human being who works in your barn.

The contamination? Maybe someone using a topical lidocaine ointment for a burn or insect bite and touching the feed (for it to penetrate through the horse's skin from the human contact would require copious amounts and the human would more than likely have been suffering from serious, possibly fatal side effects from that kind of application).

Lastly, eliz? If you really have 'seen it' I would think you could spell some of the biggest in the game's names correctly (Baffart?).

jenny? No more ibuprofen for you! It now has been proven to have serious side effects. Would that lack of a headache help someone who has a degree in Elementary Education pass a medical board or even get a few more questions right?

If you're a 15,000 claimer you aren't going to be a TC winner because you're on Bute.

22 Jul 2009 2:26 PM
eliz

Excuse me Tim G....My computer is not working properly so get off my case.

Yes, I have seen it all, been there and a cause for an occasional misspelling is no reason to "jump" on a person!

Where are your credentials?

Have you ever seen a "claimer" on his last legs and given a feel good drug and later see him go lame and put down? Or have you ever found a  cold dead stallion from too many drugs in his racing career?

My point is the horses and owners not in the spotlight, not spelling errors!

Have a good day!

22 Jul 2009 5:35 PM
noholme

tim: yes, i have seen chronic bleeders and that is the reason virtually every other major racing nation bans bleeders - and does not allow salix. they do not let bleeders race again and they are out of the gene pool for good, while we pamper bleeders, send them to the breeding shed and further weaken the breed.

and as for the confusion of what is allowable and what is not, you just can't keep up. every state and every lab seems to have a different standard or a new wrinkle and trainers cannot keep up with the mishmash of regs. just get rid of race-day drugs altogether and then everyone will know what the standard is and what the punishment is: three months for the first violation, six months for the second and life for the third. then trainers will be more careful about a lot of things, including 'contamination,' and they may, for once, act in the best interests of the animal and the breed, long term, not just for how long it takes to get it through warm ups, out of the gate and back into the barn.

22 Jul 2009 6:10 PM
needler in Virginia

Well said, noholme. Having seen too many bleeders, I really didn't want to go there, but you are exactly right. Whether you call it Lasix or Salix or the Blue Moon drug, it still is what it is: a drug that is verboten everywhere but here. A bleeder should NOT be contributing to the gene pool, nor should a bleeder be racing since the bleeding itself is dangerous. It's like allowing a marathon runner (of the human variety) to run with novocaine to prevent pain in a shattered kneecap.........really stupid. The only difference in the stupidity level is that the human usually asks for or consents to the injection. A horse is never even consulted, and runs anyway 'cause that's what they do! Never mind that bleeding itself is a genetic defect and should NEVER be ignored when matching sire to dam. This is yet another mess humans have created for their equine charges and we should be ashamed of ourselves. So, yet again, I rant: NO DRUGS, NO HOW,  NO WAY. Surely we can do better than this??????????????

22 Jul 2009 8:58 PM
Kevin

The Zero Tolerance drug policy is a political correct response.

It exists to serve as a cover for inept ruling authorities. This policy demonstrates to the misinformed uneducated media, and to the public, that integrity is being upheld in racing by these ruling bodies.

These authorities failed for years to follow proper investigative procedures in enforcing the rules in place, and to take the proper disciplinary measures when such action was warranted. This inertia on their part has resulted in Zero

Tolerance.

With Zero Tolerance no decisions need to be made. Common sense is not required, nor is decency or justice. Inertia can still reign, masked as diligence by the smoke and mirrors of this policy. One could say, it might be sad, in a twisted way it might be funny, but one can say it is ridiculous and as enforced Zero Tolerance is wrong.                    

No person who loves thoroughbred horses and enjoys the sport of racing is for performance enhancing drugs. We are all against pain masking that threatens the lives and health of the jockey, the horse, and lastly the integrity of the race.

Needed is a just policy that is based on true science,(Urine and Blood testing) and common sense in enforcement. Harsh penalties should exist for unquestionable offenses, but a scale of justice is required for charges that can be refuted and/or are not clear cut intentional infractions.  

22 Jul 2009 9:15 PM
NOT DA HOSS

Zero tolerance is not .081 alcohol as da Hoss noted: ["Going 5 miles over speed limit is apples to drugs' oranges. A better example is .081 on a blood alcohol test...over is over."]

Zero tolerance is .000001 alcohol -  also called Listerine mouthwash.

22 Jul 2009 11:39 PM
eliz

The stallion I found dead had renal failure from excessive medication as as a result of his racing career. I was informed of this  after I found him. He was raced until he was 12. Here are his credentials:

112 Starts: 16 - 14 - 17, $248,620

Won: Sir Ivor S. 2nd: Virginia Stallion S., Amber Pass S. 3rd: Annapolis S., Broad Brush. Of course this was a "few" years ago. He sired a few babies on the bush league.

I cried when they buried him.

My point, he was not a "known" horse  or in the "spotlight" but it does not matter. He was a racehorse and meds let to his demise.

RIP my baby.

Certain meds are fine, where do indeed to we start?

23 Jul 2009 12:22 AM
Asst. Hotwalker

The vets are doing the doping, and making a fortune. I have seen it. If a vet says no, the trainer simply switches to another vet. Charles Town, is the worse I have ever seen, and I have been working with racehorses for 45 years. Hay, Oats, and Water!!!

23 Jul 2009 1:59 AM
Coco Fernandez

It's all about timing...Example:some horses might get muscle sore in the shoulder and the trainer decide to do an active therapy recovery through swimming and not jogging or galloping.

They might apply some pain killer to keep the horse in swimming therapy without compromising health.The horse might recover in two weeks and go back to training and racing, but if this horse has a slow metabolism, he might carry the drug 6 weeks or longer to were he will test positive in racing day.I'm against drugs but we have to look the details and timing before we drop the hummer on Steve or whoever.

Cheers to drug free racing !

23 Jul 2009 2:19 AM
jamesb

The fact that Mr. Asmussen has a long list of violations has nothing to do with this charge.  You don't prosecute for offenses past (or perceived to happen in the future).

This case should be (and will be) heard strictly on the merits of this case.  As it should be.

23 Jul 2009 9:06 AM
eliz

Asst Hotwalker, yes!

23 Jul 2009 10:50 AM
Rick Belanski

You folks that think Asmussen is a "black eye" for the sport are out of your minds. You are on the wrong bandwagon, and you look foolish. You aren't losing your money because of trainers drugging their horses -- you are losing your money because you are bad handicappers and bad money managers. Oh, but DO continue to blame the Asmussen's of the world for your losses. More for me.

The right bandwagon to be on is the one calling for reasonable threshholds on substances, the way the RMTC has. That is a real-world answer to a real-world problem. "Zero Tolerance" is abject nonsense.

23 Jul 2009 10:51 AM
Stan

Stop the abuse of horses especially multiple stakes winners who are run into the ground in claiming races like in Mi Rey's memory.

Race horses drug free. Ban multiple stakes winners from being exploited out of pure greed and total absence of moral values and run until they break down as cheap claimers.

Stop all drugs on race day.

Have narcotic dogs sniff everyone entering the barn area and all vehicles. Turn around questionable individuals and have law enforcement take it from there.

Stop all drugs to train horses up to a race. Start the two year olds clean then eliminate all drugs one by one for older horses. If they need drugs, they shouldn't be training and racing.

Needler, thanks for your great comments.

Yes, NY was crooked as hell --you forgot to mention heroin-- organized crime, shocking horses and all, and probably still is especially at AQD during the winter when cheap horses on their last legs are raced by the regulars and no one is around. I feel so sorry for these horses and not much is done to protect them. The priority is to fill races not to protect infirm horses from being manipulated either way, abused and exploited to the last drop. Before and after Bute and Lasix didn't make much difference in NY. The rest of the country is no better and no one is there to stop drugged infirm horses from racing, not enough drug samples are taken, not enough surveillance, testing, pre-race exams are corrupted or inadequate or inexistent. It is pretty disgusting.

23 Jul 2009 10:51 AM
FaithFilly

Drugs found in any RaceHorses systems, do not fall from the sky!

Maintaining a Horses health, takes a HORSEMAN'S values to see them thru.Proper Nutrition, Treatment  before & after their performance is crucial. TIME OFF for any horse is the best medicine, these traces found are simply a lack of DISCIPLINE & Greed.Sometimes you have to wait on a horse.Owners appreciate that HONESTY from their Trainers. Most of the time ,properly managed, a Horse can run 4 to 6 yrs.Big MONEY talks and bullsh** walks.My HORSES keep me humble and YES they do pay the bills.Maybe RANDOM URINE& Blood tests are required for EVERYBODY connected to every HORSE in every SHEDROW, starting with the trainers, go right down the chain of command.Don't forget the Vet's also.

23 Jul 2009 12:19 PM
sceptre

So many here argue with such certainty. I suggest that the real truth to all this lies in the details-and we are not privy to them. It is common practice to follow-up the initial urine metabolite test with a GC/MC-which is quantitative (indicates the amounts present). My guess is that this would be standard practice-the author offers no evidence to the contrary. Also, isn't it rather likely that the powers that be in Texas were aware of previous controversies on this subject (testing issues/contamination, etc.)? So, isn't it likely that zero tolerance really equates to zero tolerance beyond a specified GC/MC quantified amount? I don't know this for sure, but in fairness, shouldn't the author (and those who spoke with such certainty) have researched this beforehand? Asmussen's well known attorney must be an advocate for Asmussen. Hearing just her side is meaningless without hearing the other.      

23 Jul 2009 2:35 PM
RobfromBmore

Great comments from the readers. If Asmussen doesn't like No Strikes your out, then don't train in Texas. Yes, Asmussen can be found not guilty on a technicality or maybe someone in his barn administered the medicine without Steve knowing. Steve has had a number of cases just like other high profiled trainers with illegal drugs and if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck well then by golly it must be a duck. He's looking for an edge to win in racing just like others would. Racing would be smart to eventually go to NO RACE DAY DRUGS or no drugs at all in the horses system. At least the bettors could have a better idea of what they are betting on. Also newer fans could be attracted to drug free horses as they were back in the 1700's and 1800's. Imagine if NASCAR had drivers using illegal drugs (Amphetamines, steroids) and someone gets killed, think NASCAR won't change the rules? Look at the outrage in baseball over steroid usage Eventually this horse racing sport for fans, for breeding purposes and for good consciousnesss of the horses who can't speak for themselves, no illegal drugs. The sport will be much better eventually with less racing (Do we really need River Downs and Pinnacle Race Course?).

With less racing (especially in the Mid-Atlantic) there could be greater controls on less barns.

23 Jul 2009 2:48 PM
Tim G

Isn't it interesting that a new study determined that furosemide (Lasix/Salix)significantly reduces the risk of bleeding to the lungs in thoroughbreds during racing?

Isn't it also interesting that the bleeding disorder affects up to 75% of thoroughbreds around the WORLD and has a detrimental effect on the performance of affected horses. Isn't it interesting that the results of the study will more than likely cause those who have banned it race day to reconsider?

Why? Because it isn't an isolated situation as some of you suggest.

If 75% of any population suffered from a disease and there is a medication that can alleviate it? It's cruel and not in the best interest of the animal or human to let them suffer.  What are they going to do in England, run races with the small portion of the 25% non bleeders that THEY have in THEIR TB population. What would the fields be? IF 75% of the TB population around the world suffers from the syndrome then you KNOW they are running bleeders in those countries. How cruel is that?

The problem with Asmussen IS his high profile. Those guys have always been subject to attacks. The complaint some have? TOO many horses to manage. Some drugs have NO place in racing, NO place on race day. Treating a condition which is treatable, isn't performance enhancing as such it is just good sense.

Rick, you have horse lovers on some of these blogs, not handicappers or race trackers per se.  I always am curious about these 'hot walkers' etc who say they know what goes on in all these different barns.

I know what goes on in my trainers, with my horses. Suspect what is going on at others but don't KNOW. Hay, oats and water? Little different deal with the various pollutants and issues we have now.

Do ANY of you actually KNOW what went on at race tracks 40-50 years ago?

23 Jul 2009 3:11 PM
Mike Relva

RICK:

You're totally wrong! Asmussen is one of many that shouldn't be allowed in the industry. BTW I've only bet once on a race. You don't mention anything about the mistreatment of many past and present horses. Nice to know you have your priorities in order!

23 Jul 2009 9:09 PM
needler in Virginia

Actually, Tim G, I DO know what went on 40 or 50 years ago. Do you? Were you there at any of the tracks then? Were you hotwalking or grooming or picking stalls, 'cause I was.......actually 45 years ago for me, NOT 50, but the point is the same. I know what I saw and what things were done. Granted, I was at a load of small tracks, but things were probably not so different anywhere else.

And while I applaud your "knowledge"" of what "goes on in my trainers (barn?), with my horses", are you CERTAIN you know everything that goes on, ALL the time, EVERY day??

There is only one way to stop this kind of wrangling and arguing; there is only one way to stop the controversy and that is to have a zero tolerance for drugs in the system of any horse racing. Mr Liebman is willing to cut Mr Asmussen some slack here; the Texas Racing Commission obviously is not, and (having been born and raised in Texas I get to say this) while I disagree with Texas on most things, on this point I heartily agree!

23 Jul 2009 9:24 PM
da3hoss

Seriously, no offense, but how does a "contaminant" come in on a cats foot, or a $$ Bill, and enough gets into a ton of feed and then a significant amount get into one horse's system to show up on a test?

I agree with binky mcfadden's example of driving by a dentist's office.

24 Jul 2009 8:01 AM
Horseguy

Unfortunately I think it is just the mentality of trainers these days.  No disrespect intended.  The proliferation of "medicinal training aids" have grown exponentially in the last 25 years and today's trainers have learned and grown up with this mentality it seems. Do some horses benefit from today's modern pharmacology, absolutely.  As do some people.  But just to give every horse in the barn these "medicinal training aids" as a matter of course as recommended by Vets is just plain ridiculous and expensive for the owner with little to no benefit to the horse.  I  sent a colt to a trainer last year when he was just short of turning 3. I bred, foaled, broke and galloped this guy right up to the time he got on the van, on hay, sweet feed and water.  Never missed a day of training, no meds, no vet.  While at the track my vet bill was more then $600 a month!!!  He showed a lot of talent, which I knew he had because I had been on his back.  Bullet works in the morning but could not put it together in the afternoon.  Always ran middle of the pack.  Brought him back to our farm 6 months latter for some re-schooling and R&R.  Being a trainer and rider of steeplechasers I pointed him in that direction.  We ran him 3 weekends in a row in the fall in "training flat races" so he would learn his lessons.  Mile and a quart, Mile and half, Mile and 3 quarters.  He got better each time.  Fit as a fiddle and would hardly blow out a candle.  NO meds of any kind.  As to Lasix the recent study is compelling but not were near conclusive.  And I object to it being given as a matter of course instead of need.

24 Jul 2009 10:27 AM
edzepplin

Hopping, blocking and shocking should have no place in racing if we want a confident betting public and want attract new fans and owners. Crooked Jock agents/Riders and racing office employees are another segment that has to be dealt with if we are to improve as well.

24 Jul 2009 10:34 AM
Perplexed

It would seem to me that illegal drugs in horse racing is a fraud against the gambling public. If an NBA referee can be sentenced to federal prison time for illegally affecting the outcome of a betting event why not horse trainers. Let them worry about facing criminal charges rather than "slap on the wrist, sure to be reduced and if not their assistants do the work anyway" penalties and see if there isnt a change in all the wink and grin meds on race day

24 Jul 2009 10:53 AM
noholme

ok tim, i am a breeder and owner of 10 years standing who does read the literature so i will take you on on furosemide. the 75 per cent figure, as you use it, is bogus. there is almost always some bleeding in ALL athletes after strenuous exercise, equine, human whatever. only in some cases is it serious enough to notice discomfort and in even fewer cases, visible discharge.

if your figures were taken at face value, then there would be tiny, tiny fields if any in australia, hong kong, the uk and every other country that bans the use of furosemide. quite the opposite is the case. australian horses routinely run on a few days' off. why? not only is the breed stronger (because they don't allow race-day medication, for one thing), horses do not have to recover from the debilitating side effects of the diuretic which flushes key electrolytes etc out of their body. in short, they could come back much faster if not on furosemide.

also, another point you overlooked: the lead author of the fursomide study you inaccurately quote, michael davis, said that furosemide makes it MUCH HARDER to detect illegal drugs because the flushing action dilutes medication in the urine. so, in short, furosemide is handy if you want to mask illegal medications.

there is a reason we are the only major racing nation to allow furosemide and bute, whose long term negative effects have been well documented, not to mention its short term role of masking of injuries that often lead to break-downs and euthanasia of runners.

drugs are not used in other countries for good reasons. touting bogus figures does not help the athlete, the industry or your own credibility.

24 Jul 2009 10:54 AM
Tim G

needler, yes.

I watched our horses run starting 50+ years ago. Hung out at the barn all the time. Started working with the layups etc when I was 5 or 6. We broke them from age 9 or 10, so considering my age? I have you beat there. I worked at the track in various 'jobs' ponying, groom, hot walker, assistant trainer etc since I was old enough. On the farm? Hay cutter, bailer and hauler, babysitter to the mares in foal etc.

So yes, I DID see what went on at the track, what the horses looked like when they came off the track for injury treatment and rest and their condition when retired to the breeding shed.(What I see now and what is most telling, what they look and act like right off the track and on the homestead).

Didn't see Dad train his as a boy 75-78 or more years ago but heard all about it.

Medications?

We didn't do it when we trained because Dad was old school, but I know that it went on back then as well.

Once we went to other trainers,Dad always selected those he had known for years and KNEW didn't juice them (real old timers who didn't believe in it).

I also worked for a trainer, briefly, 40* years ago and quit when I found out he was trying to keep the field level....

Not everyone did it but there WASN'T ONLY Hay, Oats and Water back then either. THAT was directed at the person who made THAT comment about returning to the old days of HOW only.

THAT is what I was saying, that it wasn't just HOW back in the old days for SOME trainers.

What I am saying is I DON'T KNOW what goes on in OTHER people's barns all the time like some on here say they do.

I have a long term relationship with my trainers and drop by frequently, they know my background and they know that I can recognize a lot that some don't, both from my background as well as my profession.

My Dad was also born in Texas and raised on the border of TX and another US state (where I was born), he can't stand Texans. LOL

What I AM saying is THIS particular drug has a ZERO tolerance ratio PERIOD.

Now if they say the test was faulty, tainted or inaccurate then they SHOULD be able to get an independent test. But, if they are arguing on minute content? They're cooked, because it IS zero tolerance.

24 Jul 2009 12:05 PM
Richard R

As long as we bend the rules for cheaters, we will have cheaters and they will do so repeatedly.  You can argue whatever you want, but allowing drugs to be administered to race horses is driving away horsepleyers like me who just a few years ago was putting $400K to %500K through the windows each year.  

Zero tolerance on enforcement, cheaters ruled off for life and zero raceday medications are the remedies that will clean up the game.  Until then, you'll find very little of my money in the pools.

24 Jul 2009 12:28 PM
Tim G

nholme, not a bogus figure. The results of the study were published worldwide, including THIS publication.

My day job is as a medical professional and I've done several research papers and clinical trials as well, so with that scientific mind I'm of a prove it to me mindset.

"This should pretty much stop the efforts to restrict the use of furosemide dead in its tracks," said Michael Davis, a physiological sciences professor and Oxley Endowed Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at Oklahoma State University's Centre for Veterinary Health Sciences "Extremely well designed, and conducted by investigators with impeccable integrity, the study was designed to honestly investigate furosemide, not to come up one way or another.

"Had it shown no benefit to using furosemide, then the racing jurisdictions would have started outlawing the drug. If it had shown no benefit, that would have been equally defensible. Bottom line, the conduct of the study demonstrates in deed and not just talk that the racing industry is, in fact, trying to improve the conditions of the sport."

The study, which will be published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) on July 1, 2009, is the first to draw a definitive link between use of the medication furosemide (also known as frusemide, Lasix or Salix) and the prevention of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH).

"EIPH is a very common disorder, in which race horses bleed into the lungs while racing. The disorder affects up to '75 PERCENT' of thoroughbreds around the world and has a detrimental effect on the performance of affected horses. Within the US, $35 million is spent annually on use of furosemide to treat the condition.

However, furosemide is banned for use on race-day by most countries, including Australia. Only the US, some South American countries, including Brazil, and some tracks in Canada, allow the medication to be used on race day.

Professor Ken Hinchcliff, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Melbourne and co-author of the study with Professor Paul Morley, Colorado State University, and Professor Alan Guthrie, University of Pretoria in South Africa, says the study provides the most reliable information to guide the highly politicized debate over use of furosemide in horses" Published in part in the JAVMA, the rest from the University of Melbourne, where the tests were conducted.

From the JAVMA and the recommendations of the AAEP PRIOR to the results of the study, which they and the RMTC recommended and helped fund:

Universal adoption in all racing jurisdictions of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) model rules, as proposed by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC), including no race-day medication EXCEPT furosemide (Salix®).

All medication treatment programs should be based upon the safety and welfare of the horse."

THESE are part of the group that are certifying the tracks.

I don't just pull this stuff out of the clear blue, I'm a DR I deal in CLINICAL information.

On the contamination da3hoss?

Do you not put feed into individual buckets? Hang hay bags?

Do you have a roboic arm to do it, similar to the new robotic pharmacist?

NO a guy that WORKS for you and is 'screened' by the state racing commission sticks his hand in there, I'll guarantee it. Big question and maybe TMI for some? WHERE has that hand BEEN?

24 Jul 2009 12:43 PM
Shawn P

noholme, breeder and owner of what?

TB racehorses?

Davis didn't do the study, Dr. Kenneth Hinchcliff, professor and dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science, The University of Melbourne, and co-author with Professor Paul Morley, Colorado State University, and Professor Alan Guthrie, University of Pretoria in South Africa, Did.

You had to search that whole other article to dredge up that one comment, because Davis said much more to support the use of Salix/Lasix.

24 Jul 2009 12:48 PM
needler in Virginia

Thanks for that, noholme! AGAIN, well said and well researched. I've really had it with all the "yes, but......." excuses and obfuscations. SHEEEESH!! What will it take? Obviously catastrophic breakdowns won't do it; a barn full of dead horses won't do it. Maybe the Fed getting sick and tired of complaints (along with film at 11, as well as all over the 'net) from animal rights groups will get them into racing and I GUARANTEE we won't like what they do or how they do it! One would think that a group of "adults" with "racing's best interests at heart" (REALLY???) could come to a consensus that racing has been most successful at shooting itself in the foot and had better begin to take aim at itself in a more creative and positive area. This blog, along with the MANY others, have just about burned me out. Sidebars, options, justifications are yesterday's oatmeal. A ruthless bastard, ethically based, mean-as-a-stepped-on-snake, KNOWLEDGEABLE racing commissioner MUST be found RIGHT NOW and given the authority to bring racing in all states under the same umbrella. ALL tracks follow the same rules or they don't get certified, ALL trainers follow the same rules or THEY don't get certified, ALL vets follow the same rules or THEY don't get certified, same with jockeys and exercise riders and hot walkers, and YES!! even grooms.  Everyone works toward one goal.......to keep racing alive and well, 'cause if we don't, we're done. Now is that so damned hard????????

24 Jul 2009 12:58 PM
eliz

Needler,

That is my point exactly, EVERYONE in the industry needs to follow the same rules and regulations. No matter how "in the spotlight" they are or not!

Again, not only trainers but all of the connections you mentioned Needler.

We need to start somewhere....

No and's if's or but's!

24 Jul 2009 3:35 PM
needler in Virginia

TimG, thanks for the clarification and the explanation, as well. I must agree on the zero tolerance and the "can't stand Texans" part, too.....but I WILL NOT go into that, as there still exists a Texas hit squad with my name on its' list!!

Sorry for the grumpy rant at you; there are many folks who ask the same questions that you did and their answers seem to come straight out of THE BLACK STALLION!

And just so you know....GO RED SOX!!

24 Jul 2009 3:55 PM
Tim G

needler, like Shawn said, noholme pulled out the specific comment that supported her premise only.

The comments I quoted were from the UNIVERSITY who performed the tests. The AAEP which is pressing for all the certification and changes. Plus the SAME guy she quoted and THEY all agree that it's in the best interest of the horse to administer Salix or Lasix and that there is a HUGE number of horses with EIPH.

I'm getting more convinced that some of these blog comment sections harbor activists and oooh cutie patootie horsey lovers and NOT THOROUGHBRED HORSE RACING AND BREEDING FANS.

Time to change the mission statement of the magazine?

24 Jul 2009 4:00 PM
noholme

tim: legal drugs mask illegal drugs. legal drugs mask injury and infirmity.

the results in this country are irrefutable.

people are turning off this sport in droves because of the cheating and inhumane treatment of the animal, breakdowns, injuries and killings.

as an insider, i am just as repulsed as the average fan. i know of what i speak: i am one of the lucky ones who has claimed two horses with slab fractures of the knee and in both cases the trainers knew of this condition or should have known. one trainer, a leading one at that, admitted as much to me when i confronted him later. 'walk him round the barn, stand him in ice and run him again in a couple of weeks,' was his advice. i had to walk away or i would have decked him.

when are we going to wake up to the fact that these drugs are placing the entire industry in jeopardy? what effect is this having on the breed? will foreign buyers want our horses if they cannot run without drugs? or are all these studies demonstrating increasing soundness in the breed misleading?

something has to be done and quoting studies to justify the use of drugs that hide even more drugs is just plain misguided, in my opinion.

24 Jul 2009 4:11 PM
Hawkeye

In the real world any positive screen should always be further tested as a confirmation of the exact amount of chemical or the lack thereof due to an interfering non-drug type substance. Results showing such small amounts that it stretches to the very lower limit of detection would negate the presumption that a drug was administered.  The racing commissions are setting themselves up for some big time law suits.  They have made a knee jerk decision without knowing how medications are metabolized nor are they aware that there are false positives.  By refusing to perform a blood test or confirmatory testing on the urine they have left wide open the question of a false positive.  Although their intentions are on the right track their ignorance astounds me.  Their stupidity has created not only stress but a waste of finances that no one needs at this time.  The money they waste could be used more productively rather than nit picking at trainers.  I am just so sick and tired of fingers being pointed.  I have seen fasle positives caused by anything from a slight metabolic disorder to  over the counter cold medications that mimic amphetamines.  Thank heavens humans in the medical world are intelligent enough to run more sensitve tests that can exhibit the difference between legal and not legal.  We can't afford to loose patrons at the tracks because of this constant drama. Hopefully the Texas commission will forget about saving face and stop this nonsense.

25 Jul 2009 12:30 AM
Brigitte

Professor Michael Davis, quoted by Tim G above, has drawn the wrong conclusion from the Lasix study. If Lasix/Salix/Furosemide works that is a good reason to ban it. It reduces bleeding, it enhances performance. Incidentally, it makes other medications harder to detect.

The argument that a huge number of horses bleed after exercise, so Salix/Lasix enhances safety is a poor argument unless it can be shown that the tendency to bleed enough to reduce performance is not heritable. In that case drugging bleeders so they race well and contribute to the breeding pool does no harm. If bleeding is heritable, it's another reason to ban Lasix.

25 Jul 2009 3:32 AM
Hawkeye

I think that some of you need to delve into the medical books.  Today we have the availability of high tech testing that results in a difinitive answer no matter how one tries to mask an illegal substance.  Furosemide (Lasix) is a diuretic.  It has many uses in various medical conditions.  Essentially, a hypertensive situation in the lung causes edema (swelling) reducing the ability of the lung to take in enough oxygen. (by the way, oxygen is also considered a drug) This places pressure on the circulatory system.  Small blood vessels can and do break open causing the bleeding we are talking about.  There are many other mechanisms involved but this is not intended to be a medical school lecture. The lungs begin to contain blood and we see it as a "nose bleed" in the racing horse.  Lasix aids in relieving edema thus allowing the horse to breathe as normal.  Oxygen depravation is a dangerous situation in a horse running full out especially at the end of a race. Safety is the issue.  Should the horse collapse it could endanger others in the race.  Years ago a horse that bled 3 times was banned from racing.  Perhaps some of you would not see many of your favorite horses run.  What many of you don't seem to know or understand is that a horse can bleed little enough that it is not seen. How many times do you all notice a bruise on an arm or leg etc. and don't recall any trauma occuring?  You broke some small blood vessels and didn't even know.  Now that we have easy access to portable x-ray equipment we can have diagnostic tests done on "minor" swellings in a horse's leg. This enhances safety also. So, we use Lasix not to enhance performance but to prevent injury to the horse.  Life is not black and white.  It is always shaded. Nothing is absolute.  Too many are "horse lovers" and "animal rights activitsts" who don't comprehend reality.  Sure there are always those who try to beat the system.  Those few rotten apples always seem to make the whole look bad.  And I am not speaking of the well known trainers who value their reputations and horses on the same level.  Just a reminder to the doubters, Lasix does not cause a horse to "run enhanced" but run to his natural ability.

25 Jul 2009 12:40 PM
Edward

If you have any doubts about ingesting substances that you have never taken and would show up on a test at 73 billionths of a gram(understanding a number like this is impossible for most people, hence the comparison between .080 and .081: clue: that is one thousandth, you need a lot more zeroes to get to 73 billionths), you should stop worrying about horses and check your own drinking water. Even when it is filtered, the number of pharmaceuticals in your water would blow your mind.

25 Jul 2009 3:53 PM
Edward

The presence of psychoactive stimulatory drugs in raw waters used for drinking water production and in finished drinking water was evaluated in a Spanish drinking water treatment plant (DWTP). Contamination of the river basin which provides raw water to this DWTP was also studied. In surface waters, illicit drugs such as cocaine, benzoylecgonine (cocaine metabolite), amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy), and MDA were detected at mean concentrations ranging from 4 to 350 ng/L.

It's really not out of the norm that Asmussens horse could have ingested such a minuscule amount of lidocaine from the environment. In fact, at such a nano scale of trace, it is actually the most probable cause.

25 Jul 2009 3:58 PM
needler in Virginia

Apropos of absolutely NOTHING and Mr Liebman has my permission to either delete, edit or move to a more appropriate blog, the following:

Have any of you seen the VOGUE "photo shoot" of Rachel Alexandra done right after the Preakness (or was it The Oaks)? YE GODS AND LITTLE FISHES!!! If I owned that horse, I would sue for defamation of appearance. Never mind that only one photo was used, but it has been "cut out" like a kid would do for a first grade show and tell (actually a first grader would have done it better!) AND the picture itself really sucks. She appears to have no body worth mentioning, a useless motor, and a scrawny neck. What an insult to ugly horses the pic is, and not really what we had been led to expect. But then ALL the models - human and equine -  look the same way so maybe I was looking for a picture of reality in an unreal venue.

My apologies to all for the off-topic post; I just couldn't believe it and had to raise Cain with someone!

25 Jul 2009 6:10 PM
tvnewsbadge

With Steve Asmussen training Rachel Alexandra, I just hope they monitor her very carefully.

You'd hate to see her brilliant career called into question because of allegation she was drugged.

25 Jul 2009 7:49 PM
Scott

Bleeding is nothing new.  We did not discover bleeding till the endoscopic age.  Why, because 75% of horses bleed, but not out the nose.  Only 3% actually bleed out the nose. So the problem was there, just not diagnosed well.  Can anyone tell me, why milkshaking is wrong?  No drugs in there.  Only feedsuffs.  And has absolutely no adverse effects.  Yet you can't do it.  

25 Jul 2009 10:13 PM
eliz

Bottom line...

Where is the solution to this topic?

Anyone?

25 Jul 2009 11:55 PM
needler in Virginia

Eliz, I still think the solution is no drugs EVER. If a horse needs drugs it should go home to rest and recuperate; if it needs drugs to prevent bleeding, maybe it shouldn't be racing anyway. We require that of human athletes, so why not equine (and for that matter, canine!) ? That way we can all pee in a bottle and not be worried about the outcome, and YES! I know all about the poppy seed thing. Cuts no ice. No drugs. If drugs are required they should be administered off track for therapeutic purposes ONLY. I'll repeat "if ya don't use drugs on your horses, ya won't need to worry about a positive test result". All the rest is a string of "yes, buts........" which allows wiggle room for the rule breakers.

26 Jul 2009 12:14 PM
Ranagulzion

Dan,

Your column together with the comments by bloggers has been excellent.  The level and intensity of the debate on this topic has been very engaging and of a high standard but what will the conclusion of the matter be?  Having thoroughbreds race exclussively on hay, oats and water is a wonderful ideal but where in the world is this the norm?  needler in Virginia's suggestion of a "Racing dictator"(my terminology)to bring all states under one rule and one standard is a bit extreme and desperate since absolute power will corrupt/make corruptable any well meaning human authority. A happy medium surely can be found.

This is another teaching moment for horse handlers.  Also will Steve Asmussen learn his lesson?

26 Jul 2009 4:43 PM
Horseguy

75% of all horses are bleeders? Nonsense.  Where exactly did that number come from?  And if came from someone with a PHD they are just guessing.  Either that or we are just lucky.  None of my steeplechase horses have bled, none run on lasix.  And these are horses that run at race speed for 3 to 4 miles.  So, pleeease lets work with real numbers.  And there is no CONCLUSIVE study that can says with authority that 75% of all horses are bleeders.  Fact not fiction.  Again, the majority of horses run on lasix as a matter of course because they can. Fact no BS.

26 Jul 2009 7:44 PM
noholme

from an article in the irish independent newspaper on a drug positive there for the queen's trainer:

'If we wish to see what racing's Dorian Gray drug-fuelled picture-in-the-attic might look like, we only have to look across the water. In horseracing, the US, compared with this side of the Atlantic, has played fast and loose with drugs with different States applying different rules for what substance is or isn't permissible. It is one of the reasons why horseracing hardly registers at all on the nation's sporting radar in terms of media coverage or public interest. It was reinforced this April when on the eve of the Kentucky Derby (when racing might be inclined to gain some coverage) only three of the 20 contenders' connections were prepared when asked to share with the

New York Times the details of their horse's veterinary records. The 17 who declined were described by the paper as "a who's who of thoroughbred racing".

Things have descended so far in the States that Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg told a congressional subcommittee in June last year that training horses had become "chemical warfare". Arthur Hancock, a fourth generation owner/breeder, said that after routinely receiving medical bills for more than $1,000 per horse he told his vet to give his horses drugs only when they were sick. "You want to win races, don't you, Arthur?" Hancock said the vet replied.

Let Henderson be a warning shot, or else admission prices will be the least of our worries in getting people to go racing -- unless it's to Steepledowns.'

26 Jul 2009 10:42 PM
Cgriff

Dan,

SHAME ON YOU!  The executive editor of the premier racing and breeding magazine in the country - and you purport to allow for wiggle room in medication laws to allow for acceptable levels to allegedly prevent contaminated and/or false positives??

Your recommendation and attitude is just exactly what is wrong with the industry and ruins the public's perception of the sport as a whole.

There is no "wiggle room" in European laws on meds, nor is there in Dubai or elsewhere where they run on a "no medication" format.  

If you are not allowed to use any type of performance enhancing drug anytime, anywhere, then the need for "wiggle room" is nonexistent.  And while you brought up the poppy seed and jimsonweed defences of the past - I would bet the farm that those are extremely rare occurances, if not outright legal strategies that just happened to convince the jury or judge.

Your own lead writer, Steve Haskin, just mentioned in his latest column about Europe having it all over the USA in terms of the "purity of the sport."

If your outlook is the predominent one within the industry leadership, we have just moved further away from closing that integrity gap.

Feel free to print this as a letter to the editor, should you desire.

27 Jul 2009 3:24 PM
Beth

This only goes to show the need for uniform drug policies across the the country's tracks for dosing horses.

The legal limit should be NONE.

Going after a high-profile trainer like Steve Ammussen was absolutely the correct thing to do.

He should get no prefential treatment becuse he trained once Curlin and now has Rachel Alexander in his barn.

If Mine That Bird's trainer Chuck Wooley was bagged for drugging  his horse before a race, the snobs of the racing world would be clucking their tongues and "tsk tsking" to themselves.

They would say "such low characters from  bush-league Quarter Horse tracks! What else could one expect?

If you are going after the little guys you have to go after the big guys too!

27 Jul 2009 7:21 PM
Scott

Ask Dr. Corrine Sweeney, University of Pa--New Bolton Cemter.  They did the study.  As for your steeplechasers.  Ask your trainer for the truth.  Just because you don't use lasix, does not mean ky red, amacar, or something else is not used.  Is this in humae or not using it.  By the way, long distance runners also experience EIPH.

27 Jul 2009 10:39 PM
smoke

Yes, Dan, and in a "perfect world", Assmussen would win at a rate of 12-15% like all other mortal trainers since racing began...

27 Jul 2009 11:18 PM
sarcsm1

I am a small trainer and I speak for many other good, smaller trainers whose livelihood is affected every day by cheaters.  We don't get positives, but we don't have tons of wins either. I've been in horseracing since the 70's and I have seen cheaters come and go, mostly to the detriment of honest trainers, owners and the game itself.

The choice of cheat or starve has DEFINITELY pushed many a good horseman to push the envelope.

Until you get rid of the cheaters, you are merely rewarding them and hurting the honest ones.

Asmussen:: 23 positives? Are you serious?  How many times do you have to be caught and given a pass until the last few good horsemen quit?    Zero tolerance.  If some trainers can manage it, then they all can.  A trace of any painkiller is too much.  Period.

After 10 positves, throw them out.  Everyone will be better off in the long run

10 Sep 2009 9:14 PM

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