Have you seen the RCI's recent push to change the narrative on drugs and racing? The story they tell is accurate, and has been for some time. However, it is super-difficult to change a narrative, when the public believes a different one that has been passed down, generation to generation. Find me a movie about a racetrack, and I am pretty sure the storyline will include a drugged horse.
Conversely, if you ask the general public if baseball players "were all juicers" ten or twelve years ago, or even today for that matter, the answer would probably be no, despite the headlines. Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron were on cereal boxes, and baseball was lily-white. That was the narrative. Today, after steroid scandals in that sport, people believe the testing is good, they are on top of it, and players are playing clean. It's something the general public wants to believe about their beloved sport. So believe they do.
Yes, 0.015% of tests come back bad in racing, whereas back in 2005 for these sports:
WADA-accredited laboratories reported 482 positive samples for cyclists
in 2005. Baseball was second with 390 positives, while soccer was third
with 343. Track and field - the most tested sport - was fourth with 342.
also had the highest percentage of positive tests, with 3.78 per cent
out of 12,751 samples, followed by baseball (3.69 per cent out of
10,580) and boxing (3.41 per cent of 2,433) and triathlon (3.41 per cent
of 2,170). Track and field had 1.67 per cent positives out of 20,464
Recently, with several high profile riders getting nabbed for blood doping (or eating bad meat according to some), cycling's perception is probably approaching racings. They have some work to do.
What should racing do to change the perception? According to marketing experts we should be doing exactly what the RCI is doing - spreading the word the best we can about testing procedures. In tandem, I think making sure new undetectable drugs, and those who use them (the real scourge, because these people win races and get more and more horses from Sgt. Schultz horse owners), are expunged from racing as soon as possible is another good angle.
One major note of caution, and people like Seth Godin have spoken about it: It can take a generation or more to change an ingrained perception. So no matter how hard we work, don't expect things to change overnight.
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