Clenbuterol. Photo: Benjamin Norman / New York Times.

Drugging racehorses: Economics collide with Veterinarians’ Oath

Clenbuterol. Photo: Benjamin Norman / New York Times.
PHOTO CREDIT: BENJAMIN NORMAN / NYT
A bottle of the drug Clenbuterol, also know by the brand name Ventipulmin. (click to enlarge)

Cross-posted from the New York Times

Racing Economics Collide With Veterinarians’ Oath
Horse-racing veterinarians are both doctor and drugstore; the more drugs they prescribe, the more money they make.

by WALT BOGDANICH, JOE DRAPE and REBECCA R. RUIZ

(Sept. 21, 2012) — Only after Bourbon Bandit broke a leg racing last November did his owner, Susan Kayne, learn the full extent of prescription drugs that veterinarians had given him at Belmont Park on Long Island.

Until then, Ms. Kayne had believed that Bourbon Bandit was “sound and healthy,” because that is what her trainer told her, she said. But new veterinary bills arrived, showing that the horse had been treated regularly with clenbuterol, a widely abused medication for breathing problems that can build muscle by mimicking anabolic steroids.

“If a horse is sound, why does it need all these drugs?” she asked. “I never gave consent.”

Gene and Eileen Hartis said they, too, were shocked by their bill, from a California veterinarian, showing that in just over three months in 2010, their graded stakes winner, Princess Haya, had been given drugs for pain, soreness and swelling 34 times, as well as seven doses of clenbuterol.

“It’s so contrary to our philosophy that we explained in length to our vet and trainer,” Mr. Hartis said.

More than anyone in the sport, racetrack veterinarians are supposed to put the horse first, having taken an oath to protect “animal health and welfare.”

Yet in the shed rows of America’s racetracks and at private training centers, racehorse veterinarians often live by a different code — unique in the veterinary community — one that emphasizes drugs to keep horses racing and winning rather than treating soreness or injury through rest or other less aggressive means, according to dozens of interviews and a review of medical and regulatory records. Continue reading >>

The more drugs veterinarians prescribe and use on racehorses, the more cash they pocket and the more pharmaceutical companies pocket as well. The banning of even select racehorse drugs will cost the drug industry millions of dollars, possibly up to a billion. — Ed.

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2 thoughts on “Drugging racehorses: Economics collide with Veterinarians’ Oath”

  1. “The owner wants a return on their investment” kind of sums it up. No matter what happens to the animal, “a return” is what is important. The state veterinary boards have no teeth and no will to do anything. Most board members are retired veterinarians who won’t even attempt to discipline another veterinarian. Dr. Hunt, for one, should have his veterinary license abolished. He is a prime example of how horses face death and injury on a daily basis, even by those who took an oath to protect them.

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