Minutes before the kickoff of the 2016 National Football League playoff game between the Denver Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers, an announcer casually reported that Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had a separated shoulder, had been injected with a painkiller so he could play. Imagine the outcry if such an announcement were made during a Kentucky Derby telecast about one of the entries.
Regardless of exposes about NFL player concussions, as in the 2016 movie Concussion, or on-air acknowledgement of pain-medication use by injured players, the NFL rolls merrily along as America’s most popular and lucrative sport. Horse racing is held to a much higher standard because, whereas men can choose not to play football at all, or not to play hurt on painkillers, innocent horses cannot.
Speaking of drug and medication enforcement in horse sports, the United States Equestrian Federation approved a radical rule change, effective December 1, 2015, pertaining to who can be held responsible for violations of USEF medication and drug rules. Under the old standard, the trainer was accountable, just as in present-day horse racing. With the USEF modification, “support personnel” may also be responsible, such as horse owners, grooms, veterinarians, and riders and drivers.
In horse racing, it does not make sense to have a trainer suspended and fined for drug and medication violations, while the owner is free to run the horse involved with another trainer in charge. Horse racing should consider a rule expansion and at least suspend the illegally medicated horse as well as other parties that can be shown to have participated. This would have the effect of making owners think twice about turning their horses over to trainers with a history of violations for drugging horses.
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