A trainer at Penn National Race Course testified under oath that 95 to 98 percent of the trainers at the racetrack used illegal drugs on their horses within 24 hours of races in which the animals ran.  The trainer said it was well known that laboratory testing was not done for the drugs.

Assume that the trainer was testifying truthfully.  That means that virtually every trainer at Penn National Race Course was flagrantly violating rules and regulations.

Suppose, for purpose of analysis, that you were a Penn National trainer looking for an edge and had no ethical concerns about cheating.  You knew that two drugs were performance-enhancing and that the lab used by the racetrack did not test for them.

A puzzled and inquisitive outsider looking in would ask questions.

First, how did you know that the drugs were performance-enhancing and, second, how did you know that the lab did not test for them?  Who told you these essential pieces of information?

Third, if you knew that administering the drugs would give your horses an advantage, why would you tell other trainers or anyone else?  Since revealing this inside information would compromise your advantage and get you sanctioned and embarrassed if caught, you likely did not divulge your secret.  But then who did?  Was it a representative of the maker of the drugs, or one or more veterinarians, or someone else with a motive to dope horses and collect on bets?

Fourth, if 95 to 98 percent of the trainers knew about and used the illicit drugs, why did the stewards not know?  Would they not hear through the grapevine?

Fifth, is Penn National Race Course an isolated case?  Why did the doping at Penn National not spread to other Pennsylvania racetracks–Parx, Presque Isle Downs, and possibly even harness tracks?  Some of the Penn National trainers even ran horses at the other Thoroughbred racetracks in the Keystone state.

Information flow is highly contagious and thus what was taking place with impunity at Penn National was certainly common knowledge among trainers and vets at Parx and Presque Isle Downs.  Are Parx and Presque Isle Downs models of medication compliance, whereas Penn National is a renegade and an outlier?

Is it believable that Penn National Race Course alone attracted an overwhelming majority of cheating trainers and oblivious stewards?  Was the trainer lying who testified under oath that 95 to 98 percent of the Penn National trainers used illegal drugs on their entries?

Many questions are left unanswered by the Penn National misconduct.

If ever there were a hands-down argument for a federal-sanctioned organization to investigate and prosecute drug violations at American racetracks, it is Penn National Race Course.

The denouement of the Penn National episode is that since almost all the trainers were allegedly using illegal performance-enhancing drugs, little or no competitive advantage was gained by anyone.  Yet the offending trainers and their allies scandalized themselves, the racetrack, and to some extent horse racing.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business 


  1. Right on the money. Much more in the Penn case than meets the eye. Penn managers and stewards were either asleep at the wheel or pretended not to know about the drugging.

  2. James Smoot says

    The ones speaking of when racing at other tracks/ same form having said that small percentage. The maybe 90 0/0 not much difference in their performance track to take /to many drugs allowed to test them ! The vet would certainly take care of a larger stable just comon sense.So its not just a penn. problem. Just wondering if state vets know what the labs are testing for/I really don’t know, this is only my opinion.

  3. On the use of performance enhancing drugs,it’s been my experience,that the drug issue at the racetrack and I mean any track large or small is so prevalent and has been out of control for too long it’s a hopeless cause.Even if the governing board of the jurisdiction wanted to clean it up,which in my opinion they don’t want to clean it up.WHY? The benefit’s to the insiders is too great and to even admit there is rampant drug use may just bury an industry that most outsiders are suspect of on a good day.