With the harsh penalty handed down recently to Rick Dutrow by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, a not so rude awakening has dominated the press. The Emperor isn't nearly so pretty naked to the world.
“The Babe” is just one of the many who are believed by some of us to be playing outside of the rules. We all have a good idea in which barns the cheats reside; the perplexing problem is how we go about catching these villains. They are clever and tip toe a fine line above a deep and deadly chasm.
After much thought, I was becoming more disheartened about the issue and the seemingly elusive means by which to correct the problem. Cheating is bad for the game, the public perception of our sport, and the greatest travesty is the damage that we do to the horses themselves. Pressure from animal rights organizations eliminated the use of breaking tails and slitting the back of fetlocks in Saddlebred show horses long ago, but currently we do much worse by weakening the Thoroughbred breed with drugs. Our modern-day racehorse is much more frail, has fewer starts, shorter careers and a much higher breakdown rate. Natural selection has been overridden by doping.
I propose a very unusual method, a bounty for catching cheats. The test barn is a deterrent, but unless laboratories are testing for a known substance, we have little chance of finding it in a spit, blood, or urine sample. With the plethora of designer drugs on the market throughout the world, the cheaters will always be ahead of the testing game. We need a way to identify what they are using, and for this we need inside information. Racetracks are a closed society, but every society has its informants if the proper incentives are in place.
The racing organizations should step up with some serious monies to “bait” this information from within the backside. I would like to see posters offering $10,000 or more for information that leads to catching cheats. This information would have to be represented to the authorities and the bounty paid only if and when we could identify by testing the substances being used. Someone held that horse for the injection or saw a veterinarian in the barn in the middle of the night.
No one is going to “rat out” their own barn for obvious reasons, but there are many a disgruntled former employee, transient from one trainer to the next, some living on doughnuts and bagels till the next paycheck. Generally, if something is being used by one “super trainer,” it is being used by many. The fad of the moment works until the authorities catch on, and then they are off to the next one. People DO know the names of these substances being used and it is just a matter of making the incentives high enough for those in the know to divulge the information.
This is how the house of steroids came to a crash in baseball, when an informant led authorities to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), got a hold of the substances players were using and developed tests to catch them.
I make this proposal because I love the horses, their beauty, spirit and gameness. We are their guardians. How can we do them such a terrible injustice, comparable to shooting up an innocent child who has no say in the matter? A good horse gives us every ounce of try in his heart; they deserve so much better than to be doped up, broken down and vanned off.
If we are serious about really doing something to rectify this deplorable situation, then we need to appeal to some fairly basic human instincts, the love of money and the lack of being able to keep a secret. If even a few people name a substance, those substances could therefore be tested nationwide, and it may be amazing what kind of garbage the bait would pull from the water, perhaps even the proverbial “needle in the haystack.”
TY Faulkner is a former backstretch employee.
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