Seth Merrow of Equidaily.com writes a commentary today on the Jeff Mullins detention barn incident that happened at Aqueduct a couple of weeks ago. He believes (and he makes a good point) that much of the chatter has been blown out of proportion.
My problem with the initial coverage and subsequent reaction wasn't that the story was covered, but how it was covered. I contend the story is what it is: A detention barn violation. However it was almost immediately elevated in tone to a cautionary tale of horse-doping and a black-eye for the game -- which I don't think was fair to the racing industry.
This statement is probably true, but the reason that it is true I believe is because of the state of the industry. For 100 years or more, people have tried to get an edge in racing, oft times by nefarious means. The fan base, and the training base is sick and tired of it. It is pandemic. So when they see something like this happen, they get fired up.
Trust me, it is far worse in track and field, and especially so in cycling. If a cyclist is caught with a machine in his hotel room the night before stage one of the Tour de France and it is injecting orange juice into his veins, where orange juice is perfectly legal but not something allowed twelve hours before a stage, the outrage in European newspapers would make this Mullins incident coverage look like childs play. Reaction to an incident like that is pandemic to the sport of cycling, because of its history of doping. It is the way it is, until fans and the business feel like they are being heard, or they see progress on this front.
Not coincidentally, today Equidaily runs a piece titled "April 23rd Hearing Set in Dutrow Case". This was for a violation almost one year ago. He has not stopped training in the meantime.
We have a long way to go in the business to get people confident in it again. The Mullins incident is simply a catalyst, allowing people to vent frustrations about a much larger problem that has been around for generations. This will not be the last time we visit this topic.