BY JANE ALLIN
WHAT TO MAKE OF ALL THIS?
Since the sudden deaths of the seven horses there has been much speculation with regard to the root cause of these deaths, more so now that the results, in effect, have been reported to be inconclusive thereby absolving Baffert of any wrong-doing.
It is a well known fact that Baffert has personal relationships with several individuals on the CHRB — such as Commissioner Bo Derek and departing Chairman David Israel — which has many believing the entire investigation has been compromised by lack of objectivity and a failure to report the truth.
At the very least there is conjecture that some critical details have been omitted to protect Baffert’s character and status in the racing circuit. After all, Baffert is crucial in preserving the vitality of North American racing — at least according to Dwyre (Part 1).
In any case, there are many questions that will now and forever go unanswered. That said there are a number of different theories, which apart from the rat poison, are linked directly with the redundant and fanatical prostitution of the so-called legal therapeutics.
Diphacinone is a multiple feeding toxicant that kills rodents through anticoagulant activity.
Diphacinone works by inhibition of liver-synthesized coagulation proteins leading to internal hemorrhaging and if ingested in sufficient amounts death. This drug was once used in humans as an anticoagulant to treat and prevent blood clots and if taken in the recommended dosages no permanent or life threatening effects occur.
“The effects due to chronic exposure are similar to those expected from an acute exposure, but animal studies and human use experience suggest that there is a level of chronic exposure at which no adverse effects may occur.”
Therefore, as long as the dosage is controlled, it can be taken without any outward signs of damage.
But why would anyone administer an anticoagulant to a horse, particularly since it is a highly toxic compound in EPA Toxicity Class I?
Enter EPO or Erythropoietin.
Although there is typically no medical reason to use EPO in the horse it has been widely used as a performance-enhancing drug despite being an illicit drug in horse racing. EPO increases the number of red cells circulating in the blood.
Red blood cells shuttle oxygen through the blood and increase the amount of oxygen carried to the muscles which in turn increases aerobic capacity and hence endurance.
However increasing the number of red blood cells causes the blood to become much more viscous particularly during strenuous exercise where body temperature increases and dehydration is more prevalent. As a result, the misuse of EPO carries a clear risk for cardiac failure.
Logically, yet sinister in nature from a doping perspective, the administration of an anticoagulant such as Diphacinone will counterbalance the effect of thicken blood. Human athletes routinely use Heparin in combination with EPO-doping. EPO doping in the racing world has been around for years.
EPO is produced naturally in the kidneys and liver and therefore its presence in test samples at the track is not necessarily suspect. Moreover because EPO breaks down rapidly it is often difficult to detect an elevated level in horses. See http://www.new.com/au at http://goo.gl/bLxGak (with the interesting headline How Lance Armstrong’s drug of choice has turned horse racing into a sport for cheats — and what must be done to fix it”).
“Partly it’s because detecting EPO can be notoriously tricky. To be most effective, it is thought by some, EPO needs to be given well before a race–say, 8 to 10 days out, or even longer. But the detection period for EPO can be very short, as little as two days after its been administered. So a horse could be given EPO on a Monday, and by Wednesday or Thursday, it will test clean. That drives suspicion that EPO is still being used. But regulators simply aren’t finding it.”
See Thoroughbred Daily News at http://goo.gl/tJ0wHc.
Maybe? Who knows.
“The 26-page report said that Baffert acknowledged directing his veterinarians to use thyroxine on all his horses. Baffert, however, was the one who asked his veterinarians to prescribe it, which is in conflict with the policy of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the industry’s most influential veterinary group, which says treatments “should be based upon a specific diagnosis and administered in the context of a valid and transparent owner-trainer-veterinarian relationship.”
See The New York Times at http://goo.gl/l5wN4F.
Thyro-L is a thyroid hormone (T4) used to treat hypothyroidism, a condition where the body fails to produce a sufficient amount of thyroxine; the human equivalent is Synthroid. The intended result of the medication is to restore “normal” metabolic activity.
Thyroxine should only be prescribed for horses with evidence of low circulating thyroid hormone and then only on the order of a licensed veterinarian.
Dosages should be individualized and horses should be monitored daily for clinical signs of hyperthyroidism or hypersensitivity and response to the medication should be evaluated clinically every week until an adequate maintenance dose is established. See http://www.drugs.net/ at http://goo.gl/JxKI8w.
Levothyroxine has adrenaline-like effects including increased heart rate, palpitations, hypertension, tachycardia, nervousness and increased risk of cardiac arrhythmias. See http://doublecheckmd.com at http://goo.gl/bkwIKx.
Risks of over-medication of horses with normal thyroid function (euthyroid) clearly include adverse cardiovascular indications and symptoms of hyperthyroidism which can be life threatening when combined with other medications — in particular Clenbuterol and Ketamine. When used in conjunction with Clenbuterol it is an extremely powerful fat burner while Ketamine may increase risk of cardiac failure. See http://24hoursppc.org; http://www.rxlist.com/.
Both of these drugs have been and are used on horses to enhance performance, the former legally so. Ketamine, a NMDA receptor antagonist that functions similarly to an opioid/anesthetic, was once allowed at certain thresholds limits in horse racing however it is now a banned substance with Class 2 status (i.e. high potential to affect performance). That is not to say no one uses it anymore — nothing is a given in horse racing, anything goes.
Warfarin is in the same anticoagulant family as diphacinone the so-called first-generation anticoagulants which are characterized as chronic in their action and take several feedings over time to cause death. Recall that diphacinone was implicated in two of the deaths.
When the thyroid function is too high (hyperthyroidism), the anticoagulant effects will be magnified and a “normal” dose of it will therefore cause the blood to be too thin and may result in dangerous bleeding. See http://www.worstpills.org at http://goo.gl/sAlSBv.
It doesn’t take much to put two and two together.
And one last fact about levothyroxine effects to take away with you.
“Levothyroxine can alter the results of many laboratory tests. Tell your veterinarian your horse is on levothyroxine before any tests are performed.”
The ultimate weapon in the war against getting caught.
Some facts that came out of the CHRB investigation clearly demonstrate the negligence on the part of Baffert with respect to the administration of levothyroxine. See http://goo.gl/SlmxAF.
- Baffert administered Thyro-L to “ALL” of his horses regardless of their thyroid function using it as a supplement rather than medication. Thyro-L was so routinely prescribed it was dispensed to one of the sudden death victims a week after he had died.
- The thyroxine was requested by Baffert and not prescribed by a veterinarian.
- It is unclear if the recommended dosage of 12 mg was followed. Barn staff, including grooms, were involved in its administration mixed with feed (i.e. was it metered out? etc.)
- There were no tests conducted on any of the horses before or during the time they were receiving levothyroxine to determine whether the horses were hypothyroid or hyperthyroid therefore difficult to know whether any of the horses were put at risk of becoming hyperthyroid. To reiterate – hyperthyroidism is consistently associated with cardiac abnormalities.
What is also lacking in sensibility is Baffert’s alleged reason for administering thyroxine to his horses.
“Arthur added that Baffert said he used the hormone to ‘build up’ his horses, but the thyroid hormone is used for the opposite, to assist weight loss, Arthur said. He called Baffert’s comment “surprising’.”
Who does he think he is kidding? And what is wrong with the CHRB and medication rules in North American racing overall?
This is clearly doping. The fact that a drug is administered when there is no apparent underlying condition present is simply seeking to achieve a surrogate benefit; in this case enhanced performance (speed) due to weight loss.
Of course Baffert gave it to all of his horses. He was legally cheating to win.
There is something perilously wrong when a performance-enhancing drug is legal and considered therapeutic yet poses increased risk of cardiac failure. The abuse of legal medications in NA racing is abhorrent. It is pure and simple doping. To think otherwise is utter denial.
But the CHRB simply dismissed the evidence and used the excuse that because Baffert uses levothyroxine on all his horses this couldn’t possibly be the source of the sudden deaths — blatant favoritism and protectionism for their golden boy Baffert. The facts undeniably expose the flagrant negligence surrounding the use of this drug.
The ubiquitous Clenbuterol — a widely abused bronchodilator medication in the racing industry for respiratory problems regularly used to build muscle by mimicking anabolic steroids even when administered in therapeutic doses.
Clenbuterol increases lean weight, so there is more muscle while decreasing non-lean weight, so there is less fat. This is yet another legal performance enhancer, one that Baffert and others use religiously regardless of whether the horse suffers from respiratory distress or not. Unlike phenylbutazone and lasix there is a mandatory withdrawal time prior to a race. However, clenbuterol has a long half life and its effects will linger for some time.
Also known as ventipulmin, chronic administration of clenbuterol has been shown to negatively alter cardiac function by “altering the internal diameter, thickening the septal wall and increasing aortic root dimensions.” See http://goo.gl/Hgf9oe.
Moreover chronic administration of clenbuterol diminishes its efficacy and worsens the breathing function of the horse.
While clenbuterol used as directed for an underlying air obstruction problem is a good therapeutic drug its use as a performance-enhancing medication is precarious. Particularly in light of the non-FDA approved compounded clenbuterol which resulted in horse deaths including six in Louisiana in November 2006. Unregulated clenbuterol products are illegal and contain varied and unknown concentrations of the drug with unknown and varied effects. This is not to say that Baffert used any of the illegal compounded product but merely a reminder of the risks posed by the use of clenbuterol particularly at elevated doses.
The list of side effects of clenbuterol abuse over an extended duration such as would be typical in the barns of many a trainer, Baffert included, is long and perilous. Clenbuterol increases the size of heart muscle cells due to the increased production of collagen, an inelastic material that reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood and can potentially lead to cardiac arrest. See http://goo.gl/7MhN9l.
Collagen also interferes with the electric signals sent through the heart muscle cells to keep it pumping regularly and may produce arrhythmias (irregular heart beat). This in turn increases the risk of strokes. Further studies in rodents also found that clenbuterol induced heart cell degeneration. Animal studies also indicate that clenbuterol adversely affects the hearts structural dimensions and may cause aortic enlargement after exercise, which increases the risk of aortic rupture and sudden death.
Furthermore, the use of clenbuterol may exacerbate any pre-existing heart condition or blood pressure problems. It is also thought that left-sided cardiac atrophy (wasting away of the left side of the heart) can occur very quickly (perhaps as little as four weeks when taken in high doses).” See http://goo.gl/Kwnyaj.
It is incomprehensible why two drugs administered together — levothyroxine and clenbuterol — each with significant risk of cardiac failure when used inappropriately are not regulated apart from the drug threshold limits imposed on race day.
And this only takes into account two drugs of the countless others that are administered on a regular basis — legal or otherwise. And what other synergystic effects of race medications like lasix and phenylbutazone might exist? One could write a book on the nefarious drug culture of North American racing.
This is the quintessential case of denial from a system so shattered that repairing it seems unattainable.
“When your prime argument boils down to the seemingly rampant drugging of racehorses being OK because the drugs are legal therapeutic medications – without addressing whether a particular horse needs the medication – you are missing the essential point of the case made by those opposing the racing’ industry use of drugs. I doubt there is a sensible person who would oppose medications for an animal who needs it. But when the nation’s two leading trainers are administering drugs – albeit legal ones – without regard for the medical needs of a particular horse, we are no longer talking about therapeutic drugs, but rather drugs they hope will be performance-enhancing.”
See “Time for racing leaders to get their heads out of the sand”, by Tom Noonan at http://goo.gl/Zyxxja.
The two trainers of course are Baffert who fervently administered all of his horses’ levothyroxine while feigning ignorance about its mechanism of action and Todd Pletcher whose zeal to win ended in the death of 4YO Coronado Heights.
Diagnosed with early degenerative disease Coronado Heights should have been sidelined or retired but instead was administered ten different drugs over the period of a week, often in multiple doses to quell his unsoundness. The only reason for this — that his ethically challenged owner and trainer could not bear the thought of losing out on the prospect of winning. http://goo.gl/DR6vGn.
“If they give the same drugs to all horses irrespective of an individual’s medical condition, what possible motivation would they have other than enhancing the horse’s performance?”
Reflecting back on the musings of Dwyre the absurdity and naivety of his statements should be an embarrassment to anyone with a modicum of intelligence.
“If Baffert is guilty of purposely doing something to harm animals, he needs to be ousted from the sport. But the only sanctioning body that can say that, the CHRB, already has said he is not. So it is time to move on.
Racing needs Baffert.”
In the CHRB we trust. Snicker.
And their golden boy Bob Baffert — the Lance Armstrong of horse racing.
© Int’l Fund for Horses