wow, they’re on it!

I love TheHorse.com, if only because it gives me such good blogging fodder:

California Adopts Steroid Testing Levels

February 29 2008, Article # 11422

The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) took a major step towards banning supplemental anabolic steroids with the adoption of testing levels for four major substances during its meeting Feb. 28 in Arcadia.

“It’s the first step in regulating anabolic steroids in California horse racing,” said Rick Arthur, DVM, the state’s equine medical director. “This is the most important action the board will take on medications this year.”

Due to their copyright policy, I can’t reprint more than that on this site, but I do feel I can add a few quotes:

Punishment for overages has yet to be finalized. In the meantime, the CHRB intends to send warning letters for any overages.


CHRB chairman Richard Shapiro noted that the timing is right for regulation. “Anybody who reads the news knows this is something obvious,” he said. “We need to move forward. This is something that will help the whole industry very quickly.”

Hmm… really? From working on horses at the track, I can tell you that the ones on steroids – most commonly ‘Equipoise’ (a misnomer if I ever heard one) – are so tense, both muscularly and mentally, that it’s totally unpleasant to be around them. Even the grooms avoid them, and do the minimum to care for these horses. I have seen horses literally grinding their teeth like a methamphetamine addict on a three-day run.

Trainers come up with all kinds of good reasons to give their horses steroids – “She’s too moody to race otherwise”, “He’s not aggressive enough to get out front”, “He’s not fast enough without” etc., etc., but the bottom line is, if you have to drug your horse to win, it’s not the right horse or you are not the right trainer. Performance-enhancing drugs are just that – drugs. Just ask Marion Jones.

And who will be doing research into the long-term effects of use in horses? No one, I presume, since, after all, they’re just horses, who can easily be converted to cash once their winning streak is over. (I’m hoping those who eat chevale aren’t disturbed by the idea of inducing who-knows-what drugs into their system along with a horseburger du jour.)

And those warning letters? Those will really put the fear of God in ’em. Especially since any testosterone level in non-gelded horses will be acceptable. Your man-eating, fire-breathing, totally unmanageable stallion is always like that, right? And gee whiz, he sure races great, especially if you can keep him straight so he doesn’t get distracted by the impulse to beat the crap out of every other horse on the homestretch.

The racing industry is dogged by constantly churning whispers of unfair play on every level. Surely the powers that be can see that the confidence of the gaming public – something that no one can deny has slipped, and slipped badly on every racing day other than the Derby – is imperative to the continued health of the sport. So why the hell is it a “major step” when they announce “testing levels” but don’t actually announce banning the drugs, testing for them, or consequences?

Get with it, guys. If an Olympic medalist can be taken down, what’s the dilemma about a $3000 claimer?

6 Responses

  1. Dont hold back JDP– tell us how you REALLY feel there…. No seriously, come on, tell us!

    OK OK– all kidding aside here, great post. The stern letter ought to make trainers shake in their boots, and the resulting slap on the wrist that is going to be the end result will have them running in fear…. Please.

    It will be interesting to watch this as it takes place….

  2. Well, it has always bothered me – I’d get hired to massage a horse and then find the horse was unable to get much benefit from the massage b/c they could never relax and their muscles were so tense – like steel cables. And I can’t speak for all the tracks, but I’ve seen a lot of trainers get slaps on the wrist for things and they just keep on doing it.

  3. Also? The guy who recommends frying french fries in horse fat b/c they’re fluffier? He’s not my favorite, either.

  4. There will always be those human beings who have to be cheaters whatever the game is. Just like the show horses, once there is a test for a drug, a new one will be found. But at least in my industry horses that test positive have consequences. Owners and trainers are suspended for a least a year and sometimes more. That means not only that horses, but all horses they own and for the trainer all horses that they train. AND the people involved aren’t even allowed on the show grounds of any sanctioned shows during their suspension. Personally I thought a year wasn’t enough.

  5. I just really feel for the mental problems these horses suffer from because they are all roided up. Hell how much affection does a racehorse get anyway when its not drug aggressive?? The poor ones on steriods just get no love. Still, letters as punishment? Big whoop. I agree with MiKael give them a years suspension, that would clean the game up real fast.

  6. MiKael, I totally agree. I think a zero-tolerance policy is the only way to go. California is really remiss in not addressing the drug problem in racing – and I don’t mean just steroids.

    Beckz, You totally nailed it. It’s really disturbing to be around horses who are wound so tight – it’s so unnatural to their natures, especially the Standardbreds I work with who are just big love bugs. Some grooms have favorite horses and are really good to them but by and large, most horses get the bare minimum when it comes to interaction, never mind affection. The really savvy trainers, and often they have small barns, know that the horse will try harder for you if there’s some kind of bond. But I would say the majority see them as a means to an end, and no more.

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