H.R. 961 – Drugs, racing and toxic horse meat

Backstreet Bully. Toronto Star image.
Backstreet Bully. Toronto Star image.

By VIVIAN FARRELL

H.R. 961, the “Safeguard American Food Exports Act of 2019, stipulates:

“(3) equines raised in the United States are frequently treated with drugs, including phenybutazone, acepromazine, boldenone undecylenate, omeprazole, ketoprofen, xyalzine, hyaluronic acid, nitrofurazone, polysulfated glycosaminoglycan, clenbuterol, tolazoline, and ponazuril, which are not approved for use in horses intended for human consumption and equine parts are therefore unsafe within the meaning of section 512 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act;”

After looking at the drugs cited, I began to wonder how many of them are commonly used in horse racing since racehorses are given a laundry list of drugs while training and racing. Here are the drugs mentioned in H.R. 961 in order of reference. The ones with checkmarks are used in racehorses. You will be seeing a lot of checkmarks.

• phenybutazone (analygesic, painkiller) ✓

• acepromazine (tranquilizer, phenothiazine derivative, decreases dopamine levels and depresses some portions of the reticular activating system) ✓

• boldenone undecylenate (anabolic steroid) ✓

• omeprazole (treatment for ulcers) ✓

• ketoprofen (potent pain reliever, fever reducer, and anti-inflammatory medication) ✓

• xyalzine (sedative, analgesic and anesthetic) ✓

“In horses, the drug depresses the central nervous system and slows the respiratory rate; it is also a partial heart block,” Paulick Report, February 12, 2019

• hyaluronic acid (used to treat equine inflammation; helps delay onset of osteoarthritis in racehorses) ✓

• nitrofurazone (antibiotic treatment for surface bacterial infections of wounds, burns, and cutaneous ulcers for use on large animals such as horses; has been linked to cancer in humans) ✓

“Backstreet Bully was unloaded from a trailer after dawn and led by his halter into an abattoir in rural Quebec. Once owned and raced by Magna’s Frank Stronach, the chestnut thoroughbred was to be slaughtered then packaged for human food.”

SeeStar investigation: Ottawa refuses to say whether drug-tainted horse meat entered food chain”, Mar. 31, 2013, Tuesday’s Horse.

• polysulfated glycosaminoglycan, marketed as Adequan (used for the intramuscular treatment of non-infectious degenerative and/or traumatic joint dysfunction and associated lameness of the carpal and hock joints in horses) ✓

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.

• clenbuterol (a bronchodilator that is helpful for horses with heaves, an inflammatory condition that causes the airways to constrict) ✓

Banned in Quarter Horse racing in 2017; last year, the CHRB determined that “It can still be used for health reasons. However, it cannot be administered so close to a race that it can be detected in samples. [Arthur]* said the normal clearance time is three weeks to a month. See “CHRB Moves To Ban Presence Of Clenbuterol On Race Day”, Paulick Report, Oct. 26, 2018

• tolazoline (A vasodilator that apparently has direct actions on blood vessels and also increases cardiac output) ✓

• ponazuril (used for the treatment of equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), a debilitating neurological disease) — all horses

*  *  *  *  *

Meat derived from horses treated with any of the drugs mentioned bars them from entering the human food chain. It is immoral and unethical to continue slaughtering American horses for human consumption, including the racehorse.

Please contact your U.S. Representative today to cosponsor H.R. 961. It will take you about 10 minutes. Go to step by step guideline »

IN MEMORY OF BACKSTREET BULLY
And Thousands Like Him

*   *   *

* California Horse Racing Board Equine Medical Director Dr. Rick Arthur, DVM

Deadly to Horses: The Baffert Effect – Part 2

BY JANE ALLIN

Continued from Part 1

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.

Bo Derek, CHRB Commissioner and personal friend of trainer Bob Baffert. Many believe she and her Board looked past suspicious activities relating to the "sudden deaths" of seven Thoroughbreds he was training at Santa Anita? Getty image.
Bo Derek, CHRB Commissioner and personal friend of trainer Bob Baffert. Many believe she and her Board looked past suspicious activities relating to the “sudden deaths” of seven Thoroughbreds he was training at Santa Anita? Getty image.

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.

DIAPHACINONE RODENTICIDE

Rat profile. Google image.
Google image.

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.”

See http://www.extoxnet.orst.edu at http://goo.gl/IQ0tt5.

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.

California Thoroughbred trainer Bob Baffert.  Baffert is a reported drugger of racehorses and suspected in the  sudden deaths of 7 racehorses from heart failure.  Mike Groll/AP.
California Thoroughbred trainer Bob Baffert.
Baffert is a reported drugger of racehorses and suspected in the sudden deaths of 7 racehorses from heart failure. Mike Groll/AP.

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.

THYRO-L (levothyroxine)

“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.

THYROXINE L. Google image.
THYROXINE L. Google image.

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.

Racehorse training at Santa Anita. Photo credit: Nikki Burr.
Racehorse training at Santa Anita. Photo credit: Nikki Burr.

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.

What’s even more interesting is that levothyroxine increases the effects of epinephrine, norepinephrine and warfarin. See http://www.drsfostersmith.com at http://goo.gl/iKEwye.

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.”

See http://goo.gl/A6CelX.

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’.”

See http://goo.gl/mkeTwg.

Who does he think he is kidding? And what is wrong with the CHRB and medication rules in North American racing overall?

Cheat to Win bracelet in honor of Lance Armstrong. From The Onion Store.
Cheat to Win bracelet in honor of Lance Armstrong. From The Onion Store.

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.

CLENBUTEROL

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.

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.

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.

Horse tied in stall. Photo credit: HorseRacingKills.com.
Photo credit: HorseRacingKills.com.

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.

Syringes full of Bute.  Just one example of drugs given to Coronado Heights the week prior to his breakdown and death. By NYT.
Syringes full of Bute. Just one example of drugs given to Coronado Heights the week prior to his breakdown and death. By NYT.

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.

See image of drugs Coronado Heights was given one week before he broke down and died.

“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?”

See http://goo.gl/Zyxxja.

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.

Read Part 1

© Int’l Fund for Horses

Doping at US tracks affects Europe’s taste for horse meat

Horses tagged by the USDA for slaughter for human consumption.
Horses tagged for slaughter for human consumption.
Banned drugs toxic to humans are being found in horse meat from U.S. racehorses sent to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.

Cross-posted from The New York Times

WRITTEN BY JOE DRAPE

PARIS — For decades, American horses, many of them retired or damaged racehorses, have been shipped to Canada and Mexico, where it is legal to slaughter horses, and then processed and sold for consumption in Europe and beyond.

Lately, however, European food safety officials have notified Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses of a growing concern: The meat of American racehorses may be too toxic to eat safely because the horses have been injected repeatedly with drugs.

Despite the fact that racehorses make up only a fraction of the trade in horse meat, the European officials have indicated that they may nonetheless require lifetime medication records for slaughter-bound horses from Canada and Mexico, and perhaps require them to be held on feedlots or some other holding area for six months before they are slaughtered.

In October, Stephan Giguere, the general manager of a major slaughterhouse in Quebec, said he turned away truckloads of horses coming from the United States because his clients were worried about potential drug issues. Mr. Giguere said he told his buyers to stay away from horses coming from American racetracks.

“Racehorses are walking pharmacies,” said Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a veterinarian on the faculty of Tufts University and a co-author of a 2010 article that sought to raise concerns about the health risks posed by American racehorses. He said it was reckless to want any of the drugs routinely administered to horses “in your food chain.”

Continue reading >>

TUESDAY’S HORSE SAYS

This is not news to anti horse slaughter advocates of course. But we are extremely grateful for Mr. Drape’s continued exposure of the drug problems facing U.S. racehorses, which now includes the problem of being slaughtered for human consumption full of banned pharmaceuticals across American borders.

However, what about Canadian racehorses?

Canadian racehorses, as we have seen, are routinely slaughtered for human consumption and also administered the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone (bute) and widely abused medication for breathing problems clenbuterol (clen) just like their U.S. cousins.

Slaughter plants in Canada and Mexico should be rejecting all racehorses, not just the ones from the United States.

The other depressing question: What happened to the truckloads of U.S. racehorses turned away from slaughterhouses in Canada, if indeed they were.

U.S. slaughter horses caught in bureaucratic limbo

Slaughter tools. Google image.
Slaughter tools. Google image.
Horse slaughter workers have put down their killing tools for the moment as U.S. horses are turned away in Canada. Google image.

Reportedly for the moment Canadian horse slaughter plants are not accepting U.S. horses for slaughter for human consumption, leaving these horses in bureaucratic limbo while we await announcements from the European Commission (EC), Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Some buyers for horse slaughter plants initially intended to return the horses to the livestock auction houses where they got them from, but they say they do not want them. Kill buyers are therefore scrambling to unload as many horses as they can by re-directing them to Mexico for slaughter. Time is not on their side and they know it. Any action the EC takes in relation to the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption in Canada will affect Mexico too.

Several State officials are concerned about slaughter horses awaiting death in feedlots and possible inhumane treatment such as overcrowding, injuries, inadequate food and water, and even mass abandonment. How will they take care of them? What will they do with them?

In the meantime, this latest chapter in the Canadian horse slaughter story is a black eye to the CFIA. The agency has failed to manage the Equine Identification Program (EID) it conceived to comply successfully with the EC mandate that meat from horses receiving banned medications never enters the human food chain in its member countries.

The United States federal government has failed miserably in its duty Congress after Congress for over a decade for not completely outlawing the slaughter of American horses for human consumption, knowing full well that American horses are not traditional food animals and therefore not regulated for this purpose.

Equally and dismally irresponsible, State legislators, Governors, elected officials and lobbyists payrolled by special interests, individually and collectively, serving suspicious and highly questionable agendas, are working to return horse slaughter to U.S. soil with this very same knowledge clearly at hand.

If the EC does what the U.S. has so blithely refused or failed to do, and the slaughter of U.S. horses in Canada and Mexico is severely curtailed or possibly ended — even in the short term — what will horse breeders and industry users in the U.S. do with the thousands of horses they no longer have use for.

Let us not leave Canadian horses out of the slaughter equation. They are not traditional food animals either and receive the same types of banned pharmaceuticals as their American cousins.

While U.S. horses are being turned away for slaughter for human consumption in Canada, what about the thousands of, for example, the country’s own racehorses that they routinely slaughter?

With or without an EID document, forged or otherwise, we know that racehorses in Canada receive regular doses of phenylbutazone (bute) and clenbuterol (clen) which according to labeling warnings state unequivocally that these drugs are not intended for use in animals entering the human food chain. These two medications are explicitly banned by the EC. In particular traces of bute are repeatedly testing positive in horse meat exported from Canada.

No horse should be slaughtered for human consumption in Canada, Mexico or the United States no matter where in N. America they originate or the destination of their meat.