Salix. Photo: Anne M Eberhardt

US racing official argues Thoroughbreds are cleaner than athletes in Olympics

Say what?

Greg Hall, who covers Thoroughbred racing for the Louisville Courier-Journal, reports:

“Trying to make a point that horse racing is cleaner than the Olympics, an association for state racing commissions wants Olympic drug testers to release the names of athletes who are allowed to use performance enhancing drugs.

“The head of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, which proposes rules for individual racing commissions, said Tuesday that horses are not given any exemptions, but the perceptions are that Olympic sports are clean and horse racing is tainted.

    “When you look at the facts, the perception that (the Olympic) games will be drug free and horse racing is drug ridden is an Olympic-sized deception,” ARCI President Ed Martin said in a statement. “The challenge is real for both, but horse racing’s transparency and hard line against virtually all performance enhancing therapeutics may explain why some think racing’s problem is bigger than it is.”

“The call for disclosure in the London Summer Olympics that start Friday was made as the racing industry conducts a bitter debate over whether race day medication should be banned from thoroughbred racing on the day of a race.”

Hang on.

Olympic Games drug free? Doubtful. US horse racing drug ridden? Definitely. But so what?

Say every single Olympic athlete, equine or otherwise, tested positive for some sort of banned medicationn, how does that cancel out the fact that US horse racing is absolutely infested with drugs.

And then this.

Horse racing’s “transparency”, “hard line against virtually all performance enhancing therapeutics”, and “some think racing’s problem is bigger than it is” — implying it is not.

Am I going mad, or on the way back?

I challenge even one Olympic athlete to test positive for a drug 40 times more powerful than morphine made from the excretions of an exotic frog.

Salix. Photo: Anne M Eberhardt
A bright, shiny bottle of Salix, a drug given to virtually every single racehorse who starts a race in the US. In case you are wondering, Salix = Lasix = Furosemide. Photo: Anne M Eberhardt

The rest of the article covers the tedious debate over the use of the anti-bleeder drug Salix (enough already) that every single racehorse in America absolutely must have on race day (or blood will spurt from their noses in front of the punters) that no other horse racing nation seems to find mandatory. In most if not all of these countries, in the rare instances a horse turns out to be a “bleeder” they simply are not allowed to race again, full stop.

Easy, right?

Now the powers that be in American horse racing are arguing over whether or not all American Thoroughbreds now have the genetic proclivity to be a bleeder. That would certainly solve the anti-bleeder issue for the pro-Lasix folks if they could prove it, or perhaps hire a ghostwriter to prove it for them. But if they did that, then no one outside the US would buy their horses. . .

Pass the Bute.

Read more here >>

9 thoughts on “US racing official argues Thoroughbreds are cleaner than athletes in Olympics”

  1. Not every issue can be resolved via grassroots participation. That is where organizations like ours come in. We give a voice to the horses, a well-informed professional one, that industries listen and respond to.


  2. Since Gary Stevens has already called for the feds to investigate racing and “save racing from itself”, what actions can the average American take to start the call for reforms?

    As an comment, many Americans know nothing about racing and it has dimmed as a sport here. Many Americans consider recreational drugs to be acceptable, also. There is a lot of denial, period. If we want horse racing to become a sport, there would have to be a reason for Americans to care and it looks as though they don’t at this point.

    If there could be found some kind of compelling reason for the average, non-race-attending American to act (loss of tax money, as in horse slaughter) then maybe voters could be persuaded to act on calling for an investigation and genuine action. Most Americans are not interested in racing, even when the Derby is televised. That race is about interesting hats and a big party in Ky.

    No industry can police itself. If Wall St can’t even begin to accept mandated reforms after 2000-2008, a so called sport can’t be expected to act on its own money generators. As in slaughter, the bad guys run the business. Pro sports is simply a business and it consumes its own. The average American is concerned with his own issues and needs a reason to care and act about this disgusting spectacle and others, especially slaughter. If animals are disposable, no one cares about the conditions under which they are forced to perform. Like slaughter, this situation is inherited and needs to be opened up for the paying public to understand the outrage.

    In order to see anything change via investigations, there has to be a call for action that non-expert, non-horse-oriented Americans can understand. If we want to see horses lives saved, then it seems that direct action is the only way. Maybe if the animal welfare or animal rights groups can be invited to join a call for an end to some of these abuses, we will see change.

    Establishing more and more rescues is not the answer. There will never be enough rescues for all the animals/horses being abused for our entertainment. The entertainment industry itself keeps generating more and more abused animals and offloading the costs of rehab and placement onto others. The AQHA is famous for its own breed to show/kill activity. Quarter Horses and the most dumped and most often found at rescues. We hear little about that, however.

    Racing is a tiny community of defensive, wealthy breeders/owners and a lot of poorly paid workers who will lose jobs if they are found to have reported abuses. Whistleblowers in any industry are never going to have a job in the industry again. We can’t expect them to take care of this historic situation.

    It’s up to us to find a way to demand change and then enforce it. Like slaughter, this is all about cash. There has to be a way for all of us to force change onto the horse industry.


  3. Well said Ronnie. I haven’t checked but my guess is that every Eclipse award winning trainer has a string of medication violations. Let’s not forget those.

    It would be interesting to see a list of trainers who have no medication violations that are not in the list of so-called top trainers ie, the big money winners. That would soon separate the wheat from the chaff.

    Giddy-Up indeed.


  4. As I began reading the above about the Association of Horse Racing Commissioners request, in my mind: “Whaaaaat!” And my mouth drop open a little:) in disbelief at the absurdity and gaul! Of course the Olympic drug testers will release the names of Olympic athletes for comparison to race horses. NOT! Oh my! If not so absurd, this is hilarious. Have I lost some comprehension and understanding? For I cannot connect the dots for the requested comparison. Someone needs a reality check. Me? The Racing Officials? Horses & Humans. No choice & Free Choice. And, since when has horse racing been open and “transparent??” Suggestion to the Racing Officials: Stick to cleaning-up your industry. We do know that drugs are given to horses, even “illegal” drugs. There is a subculture of acceptance. And the vets (who are to *protect animals) are there running around with their needles on race day shooting-up the horse with many drugs. Lasix, yes. Then the pain killers. I imagine the horses are euphoric high as they race ~ ~ ~ even with pulled tendons, hairline fractures, whatever. Giddy-Up!


  5. To Racehorse Advocate: Loved your comment, but need to clarify a few things. MOST trainers want NOTHING to do with the Horsemen’s Groups on racetracks. There has been a real push to get rid of them to no avail. They have a tremendous amount of power and money. If you are a trainer that doesn’t support them they make your career as a trainer virtually impossible. They make 10% of income on tracks amounting to millions, have problems producing accurate paperwork, gives stalls and races to trainers who support them. They consistently defend trainers with medication positives. The top ten trainers lists on any racetrack are trainers who are members of the horsemen’s groups further justifying the fact that trainers who don’t support them are not represented in the top trainer ranks. Second, there are honest owners and trainers that would like to eliminate race day medication period. Again the horsemen’s group disagrees. They issue blanket statements for all trainers when that is simply untrue. In Florida we had to take them to court because we REFUSED to sign membership cards that were once mandatory. It is still mandatory at Woodbine racetrack to sign membership cards for the HBPA. Back to the drugs, myself and others want race day medication eliminated and we need owners to support us. At least 40 now have pledged to run their 2 y.o drug free which is a huge start. However, the approach to the drug culture of racing is multifaceted. We need a National Racing Commissioner who can over see racing in the US thereby elimination various state rules, providing consistency, expediting penalties for cheaters, and enforcing much stronger penalties for cheaters.


    1. Gina, thank you for your helpful comments regarding these “horsemen” benevolent associations. They should have a voice of course, but need reining in as their current views are extremely detrimental.

      We have been canvassing the industry for support of a Racing Commissioner over all of horse racing, not just Thoroughbred, but Quarter Horse racing and racing at County Fairs, and to crack down on illegal horse racing which is prolific in California and Texas, to name but two. I am glad to see that you share our enthusiasm for this idea.


  6. Of course, what this official says also completely ignores the fact that Thoroughbreds, unlike human athletes, don’t have any say in whether or not they get doped up. It’s just inflicted on them, and they suffer for it. No matter what happens in the Olympics, that’s the nub of the issue–horses are voiceless.


  7. It seems many horse racing officials remain puppets of the Horseman’s groups. Horseman groups represent the health and welfare of horsemen. Horseman like to dope and drug their horses to cover up their lack of horsemanship skills. Olympic equine and human athletes are not receiving intravenous drugs hours before they perform. When caught using drugs, Olympians and other human competitors are banned from their sport for years.
    Drug use in racehorses remains problematic. Drugs shorten careers and put horses at increased risk to break down. Racing officials would best serve their industry to clean up racehorse drug use, rather than criticize Olympic athletes. When Olympians violate doping rules, they are punished. Horsemen are slapped on the wrist when they get caught doping. Trainers are the poorest sportsmen of all sports people. Take away their drugs and they cry wolf and hire people to validate and advance their doping game.


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