Archives for December 2016


Scandals over drug abuse in sports have been prevalent in recent times.  Cheating with performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) has, for example, brought down some of the best home-run sluggers in Major League Baseball, famous Ultimate Fighting Championship warriors, world-class cyclers, and Olympic track and field competitors.

In North America horse racing, the second-place finisher in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Sprint was disqualified over a failed steroid test, provoking calls for change, particularly with respect to out-of-competition testing.

People who truly care about horse racing are strongly in favor of improved drug-testing policies and procedures that will enhance the sport’s integrity, especially among bettors.  But expectations about the outcomes should be optimistic yet tempered with a healthy dose of realism. There is no panacea and ridding a sport of drug abuse is an elusive moving target.

Consider what George Karl, who coached six National Basketball Association teams during his career and has written a book about his experiences–titled “Furious George:  My Forty Years Surviving Divas, Clueless GMs, and Poor Shot Selection”–has to say about drug abuse in the NBA:

“We’ve got a more thorough drug-testing program than the NFL or MLB, which we always brag about.  But we’ve still got a drug issue, though a different one than thirty years ago.  And this one bothers me more than the dumbasses who got in trouble with recreational drugs.

I’m talking about performance-enhancing drugs—like steroids, human growth hormone, and so on.  It’s obvious some of our players are doping.  How are some guys getting older—yet thinner and fitter?  How are they recovering from injuries so fast?  Why the hell are they going to Germany in the off-season?  I doubt it’s for the sauerkraut.

More likely it’s for the newest, hard-to-detect blood boosters and PEDs they have in Europe.  Unfortunately, drug testing always seems to be a couple steps behind drug hiding.  Lance Armstrong never failed a drug test.  I think we want the best athletes to succeed, not the biggest, richest cheaters employing the best scientists.  But I don’t know what to do about it.”

As in the NBA, it is a given that cheaters in horse racing will always be searching for creative ways and new PEDs to thwart drug testing.  This, of course, should be an incentive for state-of-the-art in-competition testing and out-of-competition testing.  Alas, the money required to do so is not always available to state horse racing commissions.  Thus George Karl’s admission that “I don’t know what to do about [drug cheating in the NBA]” also, to a large extent, plagues horse racing officials.

Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business


Last Sunday, December 18, Chris Boswell of the Pittsburgh Steelers kicked six field goals in his team’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals.  Three days later, he found a note from the NFL taped to his locker ordering him to report “ASAP” for a random drug test, the second time he has been tested this season.  Boswell soon tweeted to his thousands of followers “Random drug test” and the test was later reported on

The very same week, the Breeders’ Cup announced that the racehorse Masochistic was disqualified from his second-place finish in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Sprint for having 200 picograms of a steroid in his blood (the steroid in question is therapeutically permissible for training but takes about 60 days to clear the bloodstream).

The horse had previously been subjected to out-of-competition drug testing three times.  Reportedly, the horse’s trainer was told three days before the Breeders’ Cup Sprint that a small amount of the steroid had been found in a test conducted five days earlier.

The finding was not made public because the California Horse Racing Board mandates confidentiality “except in a proceeding before the stewards or the Board, or in exercise of the Board’s jurisdiction” and the veterinary-client relationship is also confidential.

Without delving into the intricacies of the Masochistic case, it is perplexing that an NFL player tweets out to the world that he has been drug tested—and the incident reported on—while a failed steroid test pertaining to a racehorse, conducted eight days before his next race, can be legally kept secret from the betting public.

Will the racing industry ever learn that the betting public’s perception of integrity depends on sincere transparency, or will the industry continue to operate in a veil of secrecy?  The view here is that what occurred with respect to Masochistic is a form of insider trading where those in the know can trade on the information while the betting public be damned.

A storied old industry once again demonstrates that it is its own worst enemy.

Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business


In an era when the North American horse-racing industry is struggling with secular stagnation of pari-mutuel handle, any internal action that signals to betting customers, or potential customers, that the industry is serious about strengthening the integrity of its product is a huge step in the right direction.  One sure means to advance integrity is to crack down harder on trainers who are found guilty (with proper due process) of medication rules and policies.

With this end in mind, consider the recent recommendations to racing states from The Association of Racing Commissioners International’s board and its model rules committee pertaining to changes in the multiple medication violator provision, or MMV, of the National Uniform Medication Program.

Here is a true or false quiz about said recommendations:

1.  The points required for a trainer to receive an initial MMV sanction should be increased.

True or False?

2. The length of time that points remain on a trainer’s record should be shortened.

True or False?

3.  Points assigned to a trainer for lower-level violations (on the ARCI’s uniform classification guidelines) should be decreased.

True or False?

4.  Stewards should be given more discretion in assigning points to trainers for violations when a violation is caused by contamination.

True or False?

If the MMV intended to assuage bettors’ doubts about integrity, a bettor’s answer to each of the forgoing questions, with the possible exception of question 4, would, of course, be “false.”  In fact, the MMV answer to all of the questions is “true.”

From the all-important bettor’s perspective, the Association of Racing Commissioners International flunked its own test.

Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business