Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Good for Ray

The talk of late has been steroids in this business. Many of us feel that this has been overblown and driven by other sports and other headlines. Further, we seem to heavily publicize timing issue positives. If a horse wins in 150 with a trace of penicillin or whatever in his system, because he was sick, fans cry that he was "juiced". I think this does us a tremendous disservice.

There are some drugs in this business that are bad. And one of them is EPO, Aranesp or their equivalents. They are brutal on a horse's system and they are used for one reason and one reason only: To win races and take money from honest owners.

Ray Schnittker, trainer and driver of the very nice Deweycheatumnhowe spoke out about it today and it is detailed in this piece.

"I really don't think steroids work," said Schnittker of Middletown, who won the Hambletonian — harness racing's version of the Super Bowl — driving Deweycheatumnhowe in August. "It's a crock, and the politicians just jump aboard because they don't know what they are talking about. They should be testing for EPO (epogen), but it's too expensive. That's what they should catch people doing."

Some jurisdictions are doing great work with EPO and bloodbuilders. New Jersey and Ontario come to mind. But we have to do more.

EPO is ever changing too. I am a big fan of cycling and the Tour De France, but the EPO use there has been turning me off. Further, once they find tests for this, there is always something else to use. I think they are doing the right thing by booting cyclists out for a long time when they finally do catch them.

To see what these jurisdictions are up against, once they find a good test for one thing, another drug pops up. It seems the drug of choice is now CERA. But they are catching people.

Stage winners Leonardo Piepoli of Italy and Stefan Schumacher of Germany tested positive for doping from blood samples taken during this year's Tour de France.

The pair became the second and third riders to test positive for CERA today, an advanced version of the blood booster EPO. Italian cyclist Riccardo Ricco has already admitted to CERA use.

Between them, the three riders won five stages during the July race - or about a quarter of the 21 stages, which has struggled to maintain its credibility after being rocked by doping scandals for three years in a row.


I hope that we in racing are freezing some of these samples to test at a later date. I hope if anyone is using this in our sport, that they are held accountable. These drugs are so powerful that honest folks just can not compete and that does no one any good.

2 comments:

Vern said...

No testing program can ever stay ahead of good chemistry, as being seen in the Tour and other areas.

And as you say, there is little or no therapeutic value in their use. They have one purpose only for use in race horses, to cheat.

So ultimately there is only one way to tip the scales back in your favour as a regulator:

- make sure your testing procedures are up to date
- ensure your QA/QC on testing is well documented ( i.e. limit legal "loopholes")
- above all, make the punishment when you have a rock solid case severe and PERMANENT. Zero tolerance, no second chances for this drug. In my opinion it is the only way to have an effective deterrent in today's slot fed bonanza.

Of course, horses can change hands so there has to be some kind of protection put in place for owners / trainers in that regard. Perhaps some kind of mandatory testing protocol ( paid for by slot $$) by regulators for any horse changing hands.

Your point on saving samples is a very good one also. It allows for catch up and provides some level of extra deterrence.

There is no doubt that there has been some forward movement by regulators in this regard. Things like out of competition testing is a good thing. But as shown by the complete and utter cluster #%$k that occurred in Lexington, you can't go only part way down the path. Your committment has to be complete and without limitation ( financial). To get ahead of this we can accept no less.

The Lexington situation ( assuming of course the test results were in fact valid) at this point seems to be a win for the bad guys at this point, sadly.

Regardless of the validity of the results, having testing done for EPO/DPO which has nothing other than a patt on the butt as the worst punishment available was nothing other than self serving attempt at positive PR ( pun intended).

Anonymous said...

The regulators and racetracks and commissions need to do more.