Day At The Track

Horse racing must restore public confidence

03:08 PM 20 May 2020 NZST
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Something stinks in horse racing. If the sport is to survive, the cheaters and animal abusers need to go, and strong self-policing measures must be put in place.

Waiting for the FBI and a federal grand jury to investigate and charge the cheaters who drug the animals with performance-enhancing drugs is not going to cut it going forward. Animals shouldn’t be dying because their bodies have been ravaged by drugs pumped into them by trainers who love money more than the sport.

A federal indictment handed down March 9 in New York charged trainers, veterinarians and others with an elaborate cheating scheme to give horses illegal drugs, some designed to mask the performance-enhancing and painkilling drugs already banned in the sport.

Prosecutors said some horses were doped to death.

Those indicted included participants in thoroughbred and harness racing. The most famous name in the indictments was Jason Servis, the trainer of Maximum Security. That’s the horse disqualified from his Kentucky Derby win for interference. The horse went on to win millions in other contests.

Leaders in the sport must act now to save the sport they presumably love. Racing organizations must expel the cheats and closely monitor for signs of cheating. Drug testing must be strictly enforced. Track owners, trainers and jockeys should report any suspected cheating.

Too many people must have been looking the other way to allow cheating on a mass scale to go on.

While subsidized in most states by casino revenue, racing remains popular. Betting brings in a great deal of money. Not only are there off-track betting parlors, but enthusiasts can bet from a cellphone or laptop. More than $294 million was wagered on harness racing last year in the United States. That pales in comparison to the $11 billion wagered on thoroughbred racing.

The industry also supports horse farms and jobs from trainers to stall cleaners. Most tracks, like other public venues, are taking a break from live events. It’s a good time for racing’s leadership to decide on tough new policies on drug testing and a zero-tolerance policy for cheaters. Ban them from the sport.

Saving racing means action to restore public confidence. And the horses must be protected from drugging by unscrupulous trainers.

Reprinted with permission of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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