From Argentina comes word that two Thoroughbreds tested positive for oxazepam, a drug more commonly used for anxiety and insomnia in humans, after separately winning Classic races on August 3rd. Oh, and one of the horses, Koller, also reportedly had cocaine in his system. Cocaine. The horses’ trainer, Martins Alves, is suspended while awaiting a retest on August 29th.

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To state the obvious, this is not the same as Lawrence Taylor doing blow on gameday. What a fully autonomous athlete does to his body is really none of my concern. What a trainer does to his enslaved racehorse, however, is, and giving him cocaine should qualify and be prosecuted as animal cruelty.

By any measure, Thoroughbred trainer Don Roberson has been successful in his chosen profession: 1,190 wins, almost $11 million in career purses, and 27 in-the-money finishes this year alone. But it’s equally safe to call him a cheat, a cheat who puts the animals in his charge at grave risk. Roberson has just begun serving a two-year suspension in Delaware for a July 13th stable search that yielded “injectable medications, syringes, and needles.” This, though, should not surprise: According to the website Thoroughbred Rulings, Roberson has been fined multiple times in multiple states for various administrative infractions. And for drugs…

9/30/08, West Virginia, phenylbutazone (or bute) overage, Seaboard (who finished 1st)
5/29/10, Iowa, phenylbutazone overage, Black Gulch (who finished 1st)
2/19/11, Louisiana, methocarbamol present, Smokey Belle (who finished 2nd)
6/17/11, Iowa, methocarbamol present, Christina’s Dream (who finished 2nd)
6/28/11, Iowa, failure to declare correct medication, Pick a Tizzy
8/13/11, Iowa, methocarbamol present, Let’s Get Crackin (who finished 2nd), suspension
6/22/12, California, phenylbutazone overage, Karen’s Good Boy (who finished 1st)

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Because horseracing leaves each state to do its own thing, Roberson’s abuses of the pain-killing, injury-masking bute were reported and penalized as “first offenses” – $200 in West Virginia and $250 in Iowa, no suspensions. And in California, since trainer Roberson had “no similar violations during the last 365 days [and promised not to do it again], an official warning was given.” Not even a fine. This is just one of the ways trainers mock the “system.” While good that one state has finally banned him, Mr. Roberson remains free to practice everywhere else. This is horseracing.