Better Racing Through Doping

In Monday’s Paulick Report, apologist Ray Paulick relays Malcolm Gladwell’s contention that performance-enhancing drugs and reconstructive surgeries for athletes should be seen in the same light. Gladwell, according to Paulick, “thinks human athletes should be permitted to use any type of drug they wish, provided it is FDA approved and is disclosed by the athlete.” But being a horseracing publication, Paulick ends with this:

“The late Charles Harris, a New York-based horse owner who for years fought for clean sport, once suggested the same thing as Gladwell, that all drugs should be permitted in racing, so long as they are disclosed. At least that would level the playing field, he said.

“As athletics, horse racing and veterinary and genetic science move forward, will Gladwell be proven right? Will that bright moral line separating doping from science or surgery become less defined?”


While Gladwell’s thesis has merit, to even suggest that that same thinking could be applied to racing – as Paulick does by referencing Harris – is repellent. Mr. Paulick, ultimately what separates horseracing from every true sport on the planet is informed consent: Professional human athletes are the autonomous final arbiters on what goes into their bodies; professional racehorses are – forgive the emotionally charged word, but it is what it is – common slaves, with zero control over their lives.

Furthermore, when a juiced ballplayer breaks down, he goes on the disabled list, rehabs, and returns to his trade; when a drugged/doped racehorse breaks down, he dies. So you see, Mr. Paulick, we’re not even remotely in the same neighborhood.

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  1. I’m not surprised Gladwell said that. He also compared college football to dogfighting, despite the fact that college football players often get scholarships while fighting dogs get maimed and killed.

    John Goodwin

    Sent from my iPad

  2. Bravo for putting it exactly as it really is! Please, keep on shining that light on what really is happening in horseracing! The public that has no idea what happens “beyond the roses and mint juleps” needs to see this, and I am definitely sharing this on my page.

  3. Thank you Patrick for saying it as it is – an excellent article. As Edmund Burke, the philosopher said “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.

  4. Here is a link to an “interesting” article. Really, you must read it. Michael Dickinson is not your typical “cheap” and uneducated trainer who barely makes ends meet doing the only thing he knows…yet HE incriminates himself and the very industry he has returned to!

    Here, just an excerpt: “The current lab accreditation is a misnomer and misleading because the bar is so low it is difficult to fail. One lab director knew their equipment was outdated and feared there was “open season” in the state, so they sent some samples to Hong Kong, where they found so many drugs it took seven days to clean the equipment.”

    Isn’t that something….

    • An interesting find, Joy……the drug labs – somewhat revealing to say the least!

      Just on his comeback – turning them out for only 4 hours a day? Why wouldn’t one have a free choice stable paddock for each individual horse who decides for himself if he wants to be out in the fresh air (whether it be day or night) talk/groom with a mate over the fence or if he wants shelter re the weather or other reason, he can just walk into his stable. 4 hours of fresh air for the horses but then it’s back into the stable block (boxes) confinement, boredom, darkness, stale air (respiratory issues). I just don’t understand the thinking when given his experience he would know how bad enforced stabling is for the equine.
      “Robert Sangster should not have asked me to train”??? MD knew that training jumps horses is nothing like training flat horses and therefore, in my view, had an obligation to inform RS that he was not qualified. If I have understood correctly, MD intends to be a WHOA style trainer which I’m guessing means no drugs for his horses.

  5. A racehorse belonging to a member of the California Horse Racing Board has tested positive for the tranquilizer acepromazine. George Krikorian – owner of Big Book (whose urine sample contained a metabolite of Ace, as it’s commonly called, after winning the Fleet Treat Stakes) – was appointed to the CHRB in 2013. Trainer of Big Book, Tim Yakteen, learned the tricks of the trade from Bob Baffert when he functioned as an assistant trainer under him.

    • Thanks for this link Joy. The culture in the racing industry is at the very least SINISTER.



    9/25/2015 from Editorial

    “There’s no way to know how many Thoroughbreds would go to the post free of a controversial, but popular, drug until more tracks offer some Lasix-free races.

    That’s why Gov. Steve Beshear should open the door to such races in Kentucky, even though a legislative committee recently turned thumbs down on the proposal from the Racing Commission.

    Horse racing is famously fractious, but no debate fires up emotions quite like the race-day use of the anti-bleeding diuretic Furosemide, better known as Lasix.

    What Keeneland proposes, however, is not nearly as threatening to the drug’s widespread use as its defenders make out.

    The Lexington track wants a few of its 150 to 160 races during the spring 2016 meet to be for horses running without Lasix.

    Offering this option to trainers and owners of two-year-olds making their debuts is only logical: Until a horse has competed, there’s no way to know if it needs treatment for exertion-related respiratory bleeding.

    Gulfstream Park in Florida offered a few Lasix-free races for two-year-olds this year and they were so popular that the fields had to be split. Still, the overwhelming majority of Gulfstream’s races allowed Lasix; the same would be true of Keeneland.

    But, you say, owners and trainers are already free to race without Lasix.

    True. But a horse receiving Lasix a few hours before a race will shed significant weight. Few trainers can afford to give up that weight advantage to competitors using Lasix.

    No one thinks that 90 percent of U.S. Thoroughbreds have severe or serious respiratory bleeding. Yet more than 90 percent of horses in U.S. races have the drug in their systems, while most of the rest of the world bans race-day Lasix.

    Such reliance on the drug feeds perceptions that this country’s Thoroughbreds — most of which are bred and born in the Bluegrass — are prone to bleeding and physically inferior. Beshear should want to protect the Kentucky-bred brand, given its economic importance.

    A desire to protect American racing’s image is why some of the sport’s biggest names are asking for the opportunity to compete Lasix-free.

    Opponents, most prominently the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, insist that uniform drug rules are more critical to racing’s integrity. This argument is unconvincing, however, considering the huge variety of races and bets.

    Besides, a race in which none of the horses were on Lasix would be uniform and give bettors a new challenge.

    Keeneland could offer some Lasix-free races on the honor system. But without the regulation sought by the Racing Commission there would be no way to enforce the Lasix-free rule.

    Beshear has the authority to approve the regulation and afford the racing world a chance to see what happens.

    Maybe there won’t be enough interest to justify Lasix-free racing, settling the debate.

    Or, perhaps, the warring camps will discover that peaceful coexistence is not only possible but profitable.

    Beshear should give them the chance to find out.”

  7. Regarding “Better Racing Through Doping” – two specific blood doping agents illegally administered to horses are epoetin (Epogen and Procrit…also known as “EPO”) and darbepoetin (Aranesp). Both EPO and Aranesp are synthetic forms of the hormone erythropoietin (produced naturally in the kidney) and they stimulate red blood cell production. Since the red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s cells (and transport carbon dioxide back to the lungs), increased oxygenation translates to staving off fatigue. Hence, an EPO-injected racehorse should perform better – have more stamina.

    Aside from simply being illegal, the side effects of EPO (when given to an otherwise “healthy” racehorse) are deadly. Increasing the number of red blood cells also makes the blood more viscous – like “sludge”, if you will – and that can lead to myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) and even strokes. The kidneys of a horse on EPO can also stop making their own erythropoietin and the horse develops aplastic anemia…deadly, as well.

    That being said, I want to share a recent comment from equine veterinarian Kathryn Papp from her FB wall; “I see bottles of [Aranesp] discarded in racetrack trash bins frequently. It is probably one of the most rampantly used and abused substances currently in racing.” Thank you, Dr. Papp, for your honesty.

    Connect the dots the next time you read about a racehorse that drops dead of a “cardiac event”.

  8. And more self-incriminating words from a racing insider…this, from the TDN, May 30,2013 – “Behind Closed Doors – Part IV of A Painful Truth” by Lucas Marquardt;

    “Give a horse air and take away pain, and he’ll run forever,” Karen Headly [daughter of and assistant to racing trainer Bruce Headly] said. [She continued], “There seem to be a lot of armchair trainers these days that don’t have a lot of knowledge, and when you don’t have a lot of knowledge, you have a lot of needles.”

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