Start with the working premise that most people are honest, depending, of course, on the rigidity of one’s concept of honesty.  Implicit in the premise is that if most people are honest some are not.

Proof is readily available on a weekly and daily basis.  One hears and reads of insider-trading convictions, wealth managers defrauding their clients, lawyers making off with escrow money, doctors overbilling Medicare, school teachers cheating to elevate their students’ scores on standardized tests, world-class athletes using performance-enhancing drugs, accusations of footballs being deflated in the NFL, possible fixed matches at Wimbledon, pump-and-dump stock schemes, and so on ad infinitum.

There is nothing new about this…human nature has not changed for the worst.  The difference today is that we hear about incidents of actual and alleged wrongdoing quicker owing to 24-hour news and social media.

Irrespective of the competitive human endeavor–in which participants are evaluated and often compensated on outcomes–some people will not resist temptation and will cross the line into unethical or illegal behavior.  No amount of moralizing will deter such actions, rather the only solution is to set rules and enforce them with strict oversight and meaningful penalties for flouting the regulations.

Which brings us to the scandal at Penn National Race Course.  A newspaper headline cogently summarized the situation: “Trainer Testifies [in federal court] that She and Nearly All of Her Colleagues Drugged Horses at Penn National.”

The article explained why such a scheme could go undetected: [The trainer] “estimated that 95 to 98 percent of the trainers at the racetrack used illegal drugs on the horses within 24 hours of the races, testifying that it was a known practice and that testing wasn’t done for the drugs in question at that time.”

The public-relations fallout and economic damage to horse racing from deceit like occurred at Penn National is immeasurable.  The casual reader of headlines like “Nearly All of Her Colleagues Drugged Horses…” is likely to surmise that this shady practice is rampant at all racetracks. The horse-racing bettor is tempted to find a fairer game to wager on.

The various interest groups in American horse racing had better unite behind federal drug regulation and enforcement, or they will sooner or later dispatch their own sport.  The words George Orwell wrote in Keep the Aspidistra Flying ring true:

“The mistake you make, don’t you see, is in thinking one can live in a corrupt society without being corrupt oneself.”

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business

See Part 2 of “Corruption at Penn National Race Course” on Thursday, August 3, 2017 for unanswered questions about the scandal.


  1. james smoot says

    I totally agree. I think some smaller stables doesn’t speak out because they think they need some of the medications.if they band the drugs and bettering testing the super trainers Percentage will drop and also the number of horses they train.track times will slow down.They will also have a better chance for a money spot .