Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Frog-Gate Goes Mainstream

I have been watching Drugs Inc on Natgeo the past while and it is a really cool series. It is flat-out amazing how drugs are created and sold, whether it's bath salts, or ketomine, or heroin, or ecstasy, or crack cocaine. Sometimes they can be ordered over the internet, cooked in a basement, or bought on the corner. The fact remains, if there is a market, and there is money involved, it will be bought and it will be sold.

Why would racing be any different?

This weeks newsflash, first broke at by Bob Fortus, is about the South American Tree Frog, and its analgesic and pain killing "juice". So far we have a dozen or so positives and we'll likely have many more.

A few thoughts that may or may not be accurate, but are my opinion: 
  • Racing gives away $1B in purses each year - more if you include Canada - so this should be no surprise. If a guy will take a gun and rob a bank for $1,000, it's not a stretch to see someone order something over the internet that won't be detected in a racehorse, and take cash that way. The best part of it? If you get caught robbing a bank, you'll get thrown in jail. If you get caught robbing fellow horse owners, you'll likely get legal help to fight the positives from the horsemen group, get six months, and be able to use some of the money you stole for a nice vacation.
  • A lot want to say it isn't widespread, but it probably is more than it looks like on the surface. EPO wasn't supposed to be widespread either, but there were plenty of busts with people selling it over the last ten years. The fact is, two horses are tested a race only. To catch a positive, one or both has to be using it (probably within a set time period) and the test has to not only be developed, but when it is, it has to work perfectly. For so many positives to have popped up, this is likely more widespread than people think. 
  •  I think it's naive to think that a few trainers in New Mexico or Louisiana are the only ones with an internet connection to order this drug. The only jurisdiction testing for it, caught it.
  • This is the true scourge in our sport. Horse's not feeling pain is cruelty. Not to mention, the jocks on their back, fellow riders and horses are all put at risk of death when things like this are used.
  • When lasix is spoken about, or therapeutic positives, I defend a lot of horsepeople (in fact, one of my horses over the last 20 years had a positive once, and had no intent behind it). These drugs are not there to cheat, or be bad to the horses. There is no intent to steal, there is no intent to cheat. Unfortunately, drugs like this make people want to hang everyone with a positive. It hurts a lot of honest horse owners, trainers and the sport. 
  • A part of me is happy (selfishly) that this is being exposed in thoroughbred racing. I for one am tired of hearing how harness racing trainers use everything, but somehow thoroughbred trainers aren't made of the same genes as other humans and wouldn't even think of it. Human nature is human nature. If you're running for $25k for an 8 claimer and your horse runs, you are as likely, or even more likely to do something like this than with a 5 claimer harness horse that paces, racing for $3,800 at Windsor Raceway. Those aren't my rules, they are Adam Smith's.
Those are my thoughts on Frog-gate. I hope Dr. Barker and others who are putting in the work helps rid the sport of this drug, so we can move onto the next one. And for the love of God, don't give them a few weeks vacation like this is a banamine overage. It's not. And for the mainstream media, please don't paint us all with this brush. Your industry likely has some bad apples too.


Tinky said...

Prepare to watch a golden opportunity squandered, yet again exposing a long-standing, dirty (not so little) secret held by those in power in racing.

The only conceivable way to slow down the chemical cheaters, within the context of grossly underfunded testing, is to go after them after the fact, when substances are subsequently identified and reliable tests are developed.

In this case, common sense dictates that the same drug has been used in other states, and probably for some time. So, authorities in major jurisdictions (e.g. NY, CA, FL, KY) should test frozen samples from the past couple of years, and aggressively punish any trainers whose runners were hopped.

That won't happen, though, and here's why: The powers that be do not want to expose cheaters, and are particularly loathe to do so if the trainer caught is of the high-profile variety. They stupidly believe that the negative PR fallout will somehow trump the longer term, positive repercussions of cleaning up the sport.

This insidious dynamic has been in place for decades, and there is no indiction that it is about to change.

As a final note, it is closely analogous to politicians choosing to kick the can down the road, rather than taking serious steps to address fundamental problems, as the latter would assure some pain, most notably in the form of damage to their near-term popularity.

Anonymous said...

Read Game of Shadows, about the BALCO/Barry Bonds case, if you want to learn about "boutique" and black-market drugs

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