‘The Optics Are Horrible’: March Of Out-Of-Competition Testing Is A Slow One

by | 09.07.2016 | 11:08am

One of the familiar themes at the Jockey Club's 64th annual Round Table Conference held Aug. 14 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. was the usefulness of an out-of-competition drug testing program (OOCT) in horse racing. Jeff Novitzky, vice president of athlete health and performance for Ultimate Fighting Championship, pointed out the importance of OOCT to anti-doping efforts at the UFC and for Olympic athletes. One thing that wasn't presented was a comparison of how horse racing is doing with OOCT.

Out-of-competition testing was once heralded as the future of horse racing regulation — and critical to making and keeping the sport cleaner. Ten years in, it isn't catching on with much urgency.

Ontario was the first North American jurisdiction to launch an out-of-competition program in 2006, around the time tests for the blood-doping agent EPO in horses first became definitive. New Jersey and Indiana followed in 2007. According to data provided on the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium's website, just 57 percent of listed racing jurisdictions (19 of 33) in the United States currently have rules on the books permitting out-of-competition testing. Some say the actual proportion of states with the authority to conduct the testing could be even lower.

Maryland is one of the states listed as having passed rules regarding out-of-competition testing, according to RMTC, but the phrasing of state regulations does not name specific drugs that may be tested or timeframes, reading only that the state may conduct tests on a horse “entered to race.” The Maryland Racing Commission says that isn't enough to allow officials to take samples of horses for testing in any true out-of-competition sense.

“We do not have a law for out-of-competition testing,” said Mike Hopkins, the commission's executive director. “I am working on changing that through the language that has been proposed by the RMTC and is being reviewed by the ARCI.”

The Association of Racing Commissioners International model rule is much lengthier than Maryland's rule and opens testing to horses on commission grounds or under the care of a licensee:

“Any horse on the grounds at a racetrack or training center under the jurisdiction of the commission; or under the care or control of trainer or owner licensed by the commission is subject to testing for blood and/or gene doping agents without advance notice. This rule does not apply to therapeutic medications approved by the FDA for use in the horse.

(2) Horses to be tested may be selected at random, with probable cause, or as determined by the commission;

(3) The Commission Veterinarian, or any licensed veterinarian or licensed veterinary technician authorized by the commission, may at any time, take a urine, blood or hair sample from a horse for this purpose.

(4) Prohibited substances, practices and procedures are defined as:

(a) Blood doping agents including, but not limited to Erthropoietin (EPO), Darbepoetin, Oxyglobin, Hemopure, Aranesp or any substance that abnormally enhances the oxygenation of body tissues.

(b) Gene doping agents or the non-therapeutic use of genes, genetic elements, and/or cells that have the capacity to enhance athletic performance or produce analgesia.

(5) Cooperation with the Commission Veterinarian, or any licensed veterinarian or licensed veterinary technician authorized by the commission, includes:

(a) Assisting in the immediate location and identification of the horse selected

(b) for out of competition testing;

(c) Providing a stall or safe location to collect the samples;

(d) Assisting the veterinarian in properly procuring the samples;

(e) Split samples will be collected as per PMRMR-025-023-C.

(6) Out of competition samples will be sent to the official laboratory of the commission, or other laboratory as designated by the commission with reports made in accordance with the provisions of these medication rules and the penalty provisions thereof.”

Having a rule on the books (however general or specific it may be) doesn't guarantee states recognized as permitted to test are actually doing so. According to data provided by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, just nine states conducted out-of-competition testing in 2015, with one jurisdiction (California) accounting for nearly half of the tests performed on Thoroughbreds.

In 2015, the number of tests administered in participating states ranged from three to 1,633, with most states performing less than 300 on Thoroughbreds. By contrast, about 65 percent of testing conducted on human athletes by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency thus far in 2016 was on out-of-competition samples.

It's important to note the types of drugs regulators are looking for in horse racing and human sports are very different. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is regulating a wider range of substances, including many therapeutics, while the goal for horse racing is to detect performance enhancers that would likely not show in a race-day sample. Substances like EPO deliver their desired effect of boosting red blood cell counts and leave the equine body quickly, which makes them hard to find.

Dr. Richard Sams, laboratory director for LGC Labs in Lexington, Ky., said tests are still being developed for some of the substances in the RCI's model rule, but the phrasing of the rule allows regulators to begin looking for them when those tests are complete.

“Generally speaking, OOCTs represent about 1 percent of all horse race testing,” said Ed Martin, president of RCI. “This differs from human sport where there is an entirely different regulatory scheme — one that regulates therapeutic medications in training and competition. Regulating treatments in training necessitates a greater emphasis on OOCT. Human athletes can obtain a ‘therapeutic use exemption' that allows them to train and compete while taking otherwise prohibited substances if they can prove a medical need.

“Racing, with limited exception, does not regulate therapeutics in training but prohibits all PEDs in competition. Although you might argue that the Lasix policy is a therapeutic use exemption — no others exist and there is no mechanism for trainers or vets to get permission to compete with a PED as there is in the WADA code,” added Martin.

Although it was once reported that 100 percent of out-of-competition tests were coming back negative, results from 2015 indicate the testing has effectively identified illegal drug use. According to data collected by ARCI, 3,803 out-of-competition tests were performed last year (including those performed on Standardbreds). There were 45 positives; 44 were cobalt overages in Arkansas (out of 52 total samples tested there) and one was for Levamisole in Oklahoma. The previous year, 2,216 tests yielded seven positives. Cobalt is believed to mimic the effects of EPO in humans (although there is some debate about whether it accomplishes the same in horses). Levamisole is an anti-protozoal sometimes used to treat Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM) but can break down into aminorex, which is a Class B amphetamine-like substance.

In Arkansas, horses with cobalt overages were placed on the veterinarian's list until they tested below a certain threshold for the mineral. Trainers of those horses did not receive sanctions. Indeed, there is some confusion among Arkansas officials as to how many overages actually occurred; RCI data indicated Arkansas had performed 52 tests in 2015 with 44 overages, while a steward there told the Paulick Report the number of tests performed was 293 with 8 overages. This year, the steward reported, there have been no cobalt overages in OOCT.

“The primary function of drug testing is to act as a deterrent to prohibited activity, especially with drugs where post-race testing is inadequate,” said Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board. “When we started OOCT testing for EPO, a veterinarian left California and subsequently was sanctioned back east over EPO issues.”

Arthur also said the testing provides commissions with intelligence on how horsemen are using (or misusing) drugs.

“From OOCT testing, we learned every Quarter Horse in major races was on clenbuterol and in the general Thoroughbred population, 58 percent of horses were on clenbuterol with some trainers at 0 percent and other trainers at 100 percent,” said Arthur. “Another example is using OOCT samples to survey for specific drug use such as we did with growth hormone.”

So why aren't the jurisdictions with out-of-competition testing regulations actually doing it?

The obvious answer is the same one that prevents states from expanding post-race testing programs or updating to newer testing methods: money.

The Jockey Club has set aside $250,000 in grants to help defray the costs to states and racetracks, but the program is only applicable to OOCT costs for nominees to graded stakes races. West Virginia announced plans to take advantage of it this year.

Legal challenges also complicated matters in New York, where horsemen said the rule's original language was too vague and allowed commission representatives to enter private farms or training grounds to take a sample. Harness horsemen brought suit against the state's Racing and Wagering Board soon after its rule was enacted in 2009. The civil litigation has since fizzled and while attorney Andrew Turro said the new language is better, he's still waiting and watching, suspicious there will be need to head back to court again.

“We're not against out-of-competition testing,” said Turro. “Every story's got two sides, and all we're looking for is due process and a level playing field. None of my clients want other people who are racing to have an unfair advantage using drugs. They just want us to go about it in a fair way.”

Mike Pieczonka, general counsel for the Illinois Racing Board, declined to say how much out-of-competition testing Illinois is doing (it did none in 2014 or 2015, according to the RCI data), but did reference the legal battle in New York as a source of concern.

“We do not typically discuss our investigation techniques because when people start to learn about how we do investigations, they can skirt our policies and procedures,” said Pieczonka. “IRB Rules allow for out-of-competition testing, and the IRB wishes it could do more testing across the board, but there are budget constraints, as with many other racing jurisdictions. There are also always legal issues with on-track vs off-track testing that need to be considered. The IRB is committed to increasing its rights to help ensure the safety and security of all racing participants, including equine athletes and the betting public.”

Regulators in states spending the cash to perform the tests say it's a basic element of racing integrity to them, and excuses to delay testing are just that. Those excuses are gaining attention within regulatory groups, however: sources tell the Paulick Report new model rule language, based on WADA's rule, has reportedly been stalled and heavily edited by horsemen's representatives who believe it is too broad.

“Once EPO was detectable in equine blood, we began out of competition testing almost immediately,” said Joe Gorajec, former executive director of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission. “For us in Indiana it was a ‘no brainer.' We could not claim that we were regulating to the highest of standards and with the greatest level of integrity if we turned a blind eye to blood doping.”

What does Gorajec guess is stopping states from testing?

“It's likely either lack of funding or lack of will – or a combination of both,” he said. “Without OOCT, horsemen can cheat with impunity. This is a disservice to the sport and the betting public.

 “The optics are horrible.”

  • Condor

    Can anybody tell me which country first alerted authorities to the fact that cobalt was being abused in horse racing?

    • ben

      I suppose the Guys from Down Under.

      • Condor

        I guessed as much. North america gets most of the blame for being the place where the latest illegal drugs surface but oz and nz seem to be as bad.

    • righthind

      Canada. Ontario had a cobalt warning and alert before any other jurisdiction.

      • Sporting Chance

        We had a cobalt problem in England in the harness scene 5-6 years ago, while the authorities were trying to get a threshold level sorted they put out a statement saying stored samples would be retested and retrospective bans would be issued. They were not true to there word , racings suffered since and as usual the cheaters got away with it. It seems in all countries bar Hong Kong there just isn’t the will to punish cheaters, that’s why Hong Kong’s racing product is flourishing and everywhere else is dying. The top trainers in all countries seem like they would rather use the latest magic rather than inform authorities about it.

  • Hamish

    Wonder why the racetracks aren’t driving the OOCT bus? Seems their racing product image would have a lot to gain if at least the drug cheaters were weeded out with this random testing.

  • Jack Frazier

    All this says is that drug use will continue unabated. The only way to stop it is to ban everything. Period. Anything else will fail of its own weight.

  • Another excellent piece by the author.

    • McGov

      Very cool pic as well.

  • Tinky

    Good post, but I’ll again add what I believe could potentially be the final piece of the difficult puzzle.

    As the late owner Charlie Harris suggested years ago, if a well designed contract along the lines of Sarbanes-Oxley, required to be signed by all trainers, were to be implemented, most who have been cheating with near impunity would be stopped in their tracks. Why? Because such a contract would state that samples would be held indefinitely, and that when tests for currently undetectable PEDs are developed, those samples would be retroactively tested, and positives would trigger Federal investigations.

    Think about it. The primary reason that cheating has been rampant for decades, and that those inclined to cheat have been able to do so with near impunity, is that they have been able to use either undetectable substances. But if there were the fear that tests would eventually be developed for currently undetectable substances, that stored samples could be tested retroactively, and that those involved in their use as long as years earlier could face Federal charges, the risk/reward calculus would change dramatically.

    Of course the industry would have to back up such a plan with superior chain of custody, secure storage and testing, but those obstacles would not be insurmountable.

    • In an ideal world, this would be effective, I agree. But here is the rub. When members of the coalition backing Federal legislation met with the CEO of one of the biggest racetrack companies, this individual made it clear that his company would not go along with USADA being involved if they were going to freeze samples. The only way to solve this puzzle is with a national law.

      • Tinky

        Fascinating. I assume that the CEO did not explain why he would take that position…

    • smoof

      sarbannes oaxley is a joke. the only thi g it has resulted in the punishment of whistleblowes, one of the very things it was designed to prevent.

      • Tinky

        You are misunderstanding why it has become a joke.

  • McGov

    Excellent perspective of problems and well said. Racing needs to be uprooted and replanted. The soil, far too contaminated.
    Sometimes taking a peek at the way others have achieved success and politely borrowing what works is a smart way to approach things. Bit less energy expended ;)

    • Hamish

      Yes, agreed, not just rearrange the deck chairs on the sinking ship, but get some new ones. The prevailing attitude that “we’ve always done it this way” that protects the status quo mongers has got to go away.

  • togahombre

    today most highly skilled old school investigators, are involved with anti-terror agencys, because of the reliance on lab work and cooperating co-conspirators they are a very limited resource, holding owners accountable would go a long way, they ultimately control the sport, and like in most similar cases, by virtue of their spot in the food chain are held harmless when cheating is found out, their licensed too,

    • I totally agree with your comments about owners, but you are absolutely incorrect about the availability of investigators. That is utter nonsense. The only thing missing is the will. Integrity of the sport is not held in high enough regard. As for the owners, they are by and large an absentee group that leave most things to their trainers. And trainer, by and large, are passive when it comes to integrity, even though they are perhaps the biggest victims of cheating as practiced by their peers. Trainers are reluctant to rock the boat for fear that one rotten apple stains all of them. They have got to get over this way of thinking, take responsibility and shake things up.

  • Elliott ness

    The old school , boots on the ground, investigators, please state a scenario that would be workable. How would old school private eye investigators come upon the juice that allows the horses to re break at the 1/8 pole. Thx

  • Bill

    But from what I understand EPO is very easily detected now. They have an antibody test that can detect EPO for up to a half year or more. I think the fear of EPO in our game is a little overplayed and that the cheaters have probably moved on to new things a long time ago. I don’t mind being corrected though if I’m missing something here.

    • Wrong. Form of EPO that are suspected of being used today on horses cannot be detected unless tested within 4 hours of micro-dosing. Based on my interviews with people directly involved in the detection of EPO, it seems highly likely that it remains the drug of choice for cheaters. So little work is done to uncover the use of illegal drugs that the cheaters brazenly still use the real stuff.

      • Gate To Wire

        Barry is 100% right here.
        A few years ago before micro-dosing the use of 72 hr security was a big help in curbing drug use and you saw several trainers who had multiple horses that magically got slower during 72 hr security but the last 2+ year the advent of micro dosing and new forms of EPO have made 72 hr security useless in curbing drug use. The same trainers that had multiple horses get slower are no longer affected by 72 hr security likely because of micro dosing

  • Gate To Wire


  • Gate To Wire

    Could not agree more. Excellent post Barry!!

  • Gate To Wire

    Until horse racing gets serious about OOC Testing and creating individual blood passports for each horse competing they will always be several steps behind. Reliance on post race testing will never catch any serious cheater. The use of micro dosing makes the window for catching sophisticated cheaters very small and given what we have seen the last 15 years in sport it’s not hard to be suspicious of every effort that seems too good to be real. Everyone thought at the time that Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire etc etc were clean but what they were doing on the field of play was just too good to be real. The same things are happening in horse racing right now and until we get serious about real investigators, OOC Testing and a Biological Passport it’s like bringing a pea shooter to fight against a machine gun.

  • I have first-hand knowledge of what it takes and how very simple it is from some recent investigations that bore fruit but little substantive action was taken. This is not rocket science. Same tools the DEA and FBI use on a daily basis. This is more will than statecraft, believe me.

    • togahombre

      i’ll agree with you that catching the cheaters won’t be easily done in the labs, they have labs too

  • Jack Frazier

    Barry has a great point but the bottom line is those who affect change don’t want to. Imagine if you will the list of the top trainers, including HOF trainers being ruled off for life. That is what it will take in addition to a policy of three strikes and your out whether it be for bute, Lasix or other drugs. A trainer can have a laundry list of minor violations and nothing happens except a fine which they pay and go about their business. Anyone with common sense knows who is cheating. They get away with it because the racing bosses are afraid they will tarnish racing’s image. Well it is tarnished beyond redemption now and it is business as usual. This is the main reason I no longer race in California. Is there collusion between racing officials and high profile trainers? I have no idea but it sure seems it is.
    The only way is to ban any admiration of drugs legal or otherwise seven to ten days before a race and more importantly, whatever veterinarian is the vet of record for each horse gets the same penalty and if they have a certain number of violations, they are ruled off for life. The attending vet for the trainers should be listed on the program and people would know which trainers and vets are culpable for cheating. There are a few honest vets but it is a small number considering the amount of money they make just giving bute and Lasix not counting the illicit ones they administer.
    This is my opinion. I have nothing to lose because I quit because of rampant drug use. And the trainers always blame the groom or some fantasy person and clam up better than Hillary Clinton and her emails.

  • smoof

    one of the problems is the same problem that cycling had since 1989 that accelerated in the 1990s, and was perfected in the 2000s by lance armstrong (it hasn’t stopped now that lance has been exposed, it’s just gotten even more sophisticated).

    i talked about this with jerry brown over at thoroughgraph a fews years ago, before and during the baffert/zayat thorixine scandle.

    to stop doping, you have to be willing and unyeilding with all performances and incidents that suggest manipulation, focusing on the superstars not the bush leagues, but that won’t happen because top tier racing isn’t even as big as a fish pond, it’s a bucket. a lot of people would have to call out people they’re friends with.

    those of us in the early 90s, who started sounding the whistle in cycling, most notably greg lemond, were ridiculed and run out of the sport. lemond, probably the most naturally gifted cyclist of all time, and the only great american cyclist, was destroyed by armstrong, trek, USADA, and the UCI for speaking the truth (you have to forgive me if i don’t share hope of salvation from USADA).

    lemond had even more to go on than me. as lance’s former teammate, he knew his vo2max and natural epo level. neither were suggestive of a top athelete in any sport, and had he born in europe, lance would have never made any team. he could in the US, because cyclying was obscure and noncompetitive here in the 80s and 90s (and still is compared to europe)(greg began his career as a junior on a french team).

    if you want to stop doping, you have to publicize before each race every horse’s out of competition weight, pre-race weight, natural epo level, vo2max, and lactic acid threshold. all of which can be easily measured on a treadmill and with blood samples. if you have that info, you can determine who’s doping pretty easily. you could also make handicapping and figure making objective.

    i knew armstrong back when we both teenagers riding the MS150 in texas. he was jr triathlete back then, but couldn’t even run close to a 4minute mile, not even a competative time for a highschool miler. you had guys at every school in texas who were more naturally atheletic than he was. and he had never been able to even finish a tour, let alone win one, until he emerged as “super-lance” in 1999. he couldn’t even win one day races back then. if his pre-super-lance data had been public, no one could have swallowed the miracle nonsense. greg tried, but he was branded a loon and a liar.

    unaided, humans and horses can’t do more than our physiology and biochemstry allow, neither of which has a lot natural of give. the 4 minute mile is a perfect example. very few humans have ever been able to run a sub 4 minute mile, and none can do it without a dedicated team of pace setters. and even then, even fewer ever replicate it. if you start to see a runner belting out sub 4s unpaced, you should be alarmed they may cheating. if that runner has been a competitive runner for years without running that fast. you should assume they are cheating. if you have that runners bio data from before and after, you’ll know they’re cheating.

    jerry already had the idea of using pace figs to try to identify possible doping, but he really is blinded to top tier cheating. our argument, what i tried to make him see, is that doping trickles down, not up. successful doping regimines are expensive. i told him that if he wanted to know who were the best doped horses in america, you had to look at the richest trainers and the richest owners. he got this when it was about trainers he didn’t like, but jerry’s friends with other super trainers, and when he gets a performance like one in particular this summer that he would have flagged as questionable from another trainer, instead he couldn’t wait to give it one of the best figs in history, despite having said before the race the horse was too slow to even win…he even shared the good laugh about this he had with trainer…

    in cycling, the vanguard were the most successful, well funded, legendary belgian and italian teams. one of the most storied belgian teams had 18, 18-20 year old junior riders drop dead in 1989 from heart attacks. thier autopsies found that their blood had turned to sludge. that was how the cycling world first learned about epo, and it didn’t phase it at all. it started an arms race…sounds a little like those 14 horses on thoraxin that dropped dead at hollywood park, doesn’t it…. that certainly didn’t phase this sport.

    testing is a joke in all sports, human or equine. it is actually true that armstrong passed all of his tests (except one during the 1999 tour that he was able to squelch by forging his partnership with the UCI).

    horse racing doesn’t need to be governed by USADA or WADA. that won’t change anything. it needs, like i told jerry, to be managed under strict uniform gaming laws, like they have in las vegas, partnered with a respected animal proctection organization, like the SPCA, and the animal cruelty units of the various local police depts. you’d have a chance then…

    • Raycing W

      Smoof, your post is actually one of the best I’ve seen. You acknowledge the physiological limitations of both humans and horses. Not enough people understand this. Also, cheating trickles down, not up, is absolutely the truth.

      This years Travers is a perfect example of a performance that should be flagged. What most don’t understand about that performance is how unusual it was. It may currently be the best doping job ever performed. To run the fastest Travers ever by a fairly common horse (much like Lance was predoping) is so statistically unusual that the probability that he didn’t use some type of illegal performance enhancer (most likely epo) is extremely low. Look at the list of top three finishers in previous Travers and you see arguably some of the best to ever race. It wasn’t clear to me that the Saratoga surface this year was unusually fast. In my opinion, if it was the surface responsible for a horse the common caliber of Arrogate to set a record, then every dirt race should of been a new record that day. So you can eliminate the idea of a “souped up” surface. Thus, the only other two possibilities is that he is a natural super horse–which he clearly isn’t, or finally, that he responded very well to epo. The latter is by far the most likely choice. Even his training regiment screams epo (to do it right, you need at least 6 – 8 weeks between races). Many feel that racing can’t afford to look critically at the winners of some of the biggest races as they feel it will make the sport look suspect. Well it already is suspect. Smoof is right, it starts at the top and trickles down. Cobalt is the poor persons epo.

      The sad part of this, is that most of the other horses in these races are also on illegal performance enhances–they have to be just to be competitive (that is what happened in biking–thank goodness Floyd Landis finally turned on Lance, otherwise he would still be believed by the public). That is why I no longer play any of the big races as it is disturbing to me to see the level of cheating the sport has fallen to. I’m so tired of reading about the fragility of today’s racehorses. It isn’t that they are any less fragile than past generations, but rather that they are doped to run faster and further than their physiology naturally allows. Thus they injure themselves.

      Good post smoof

      • Bobbie Irish

        Horses are fragile enough animals, without any doping. Wild horses snap legs every day, and die a lingering, painful death, unless put out of their misery by a hungry mountain lion. Broken legs, broken muzzles, teeth hanging out, terrible, terrible injuries in the wild. Horses are very fragile animals. Most spend their entire life trying to commit suicide, whether they are domestic or feral, a horse can get itself into trouble in a second, no drugs needed. Maybe the species should be banned, not just drugs?

    • Very interesting and informative and has the ring of truth, except when you write about the mile run, where you are out of your depth.

      As for USADA, the reason they are important is two fold, as follows:

      1. They are independent.
      2. They are experienced.

      Government involvement is something few in racing desire, but the Federal government is needed to bring them on board.

      • Kenny

        Barry this Smoof is much more in his “depth” on this subject than you. I am not saying that to insult you but Smoof and Raycing W’s reply to Smoof sum up the problem as good as I have seen. When something looks to good to be true the really strong odds are it isn’t. Barry Bond’s exploits at an age when people start to regress looked to good to be true and sure enough his exploits turned out to be to good to be true (his exploits were aided by prohibited performance enhancing substances). Same with Lance Armstrong, same with Mark McGwire and the same with some of the horse trainers for the rich and powerful. Plain and simple what happened at Saratoga in the Travers was too good to be true – that was a prime example but of course nobody wants to talk about that. Just congratulate and be excited that a path is going to be taken to the Breeders Cup that allows for a perfect EPO regiment. Before everybody attacks me there is nothing untrue about pointing out the obvious that in order to utilize a successful EPO regiment you can’t race every 3 or 4 weeks and the only way to truly detect EPO is through complete and thorough out of competition testing. The real true problems in racing aren’t going on on the backsides in places like Louisiana and with $5,000 claimers (as you have more than once said) but rather as Smoof pointed out at the top and then of course it does trickle down.

        • Kenny, if you read what I wrote, I said he was out of his depth when he wrote about the mile run for human beings. His comments show a lack of familiarity with today’s Milers, a few of whom not only are capable of running in less than 4 minutes, but doing it back to back. Running a mile in less than 4 minutes for an elite Miler is easy and there are many capable of doing it without the benefit of a pacesetter. You really want to argue with me on this topic?

          • Kenny

            Smoof is more in depth on the subject of PED’s in regards to one famous athlete who later in life was well aided by PED’s (including what human milers were running at the time Armstrong was running the mile). Smoof appears to have first hand experience competing around Armstong whose later in life exploits appeared at the time to somebody objectively looking to be too good to be true (of course we all know they were later proven to be too good to be true). Smoof indicated he competed first hand with/against Armstrong – if you competed first hand against Armstrong then I stand corrected about my statement that Smoof had more “depth” about his personal experience seeing what PED’s did for Armstrong as an athlete including his experience competing in the mile with Armstrong. If you want to argue go ahead but plain and simple I am confident I am as opposed to PED’s in horse racing as much or more than anybody and I am very confident that the most egregious use of PED’s starts at the top. The horses running for $5k tags in places such as Louisiana run a whole lot more races than the super horses who are trained by celebrity trainers for the ultra-wealthy owners are able to run before they have to be retired due to injury. There are problems at ALL levels for sure but the clean-up has to start at the top and a properly run (and funded) out of competition testing program that is applied EQUALLY to all (regardless of threats by the powerful trainers and owners or fear of the public repercussions that might go along with catching a famous trainer or horse) is one of the best pieces to doing it.

          • You’d be easy to defeat in a debate because you have difficulty focusing. You obviously have missed the point and think that putting a lot of words down will somehow matter. Read what I wrote pal. FOCUS.

          • Kenny

            Barry you make me laugh out loud. I have very little doubt that I’d “defeat” you in a debate. My actual real world work has required me to “debate” regularly and my record is one I am proud of. As always Barry you resort to personal insults to deflect from the substance. Due to the fact racing or setting up syndicates isn’t my life or how I make my living my replies are written in seconds (sometimes in maybe minutes because I am interrupted) so yes I would hope they aren’t full of focus and pomp. I do not recollect we’ve ever met so I doubt we are pals. Keep on arguing and trying to resort to personal insults with somebody who is actually on the same side as you about this issue. At the end of the day neither your diatribe nor mine really do matter (I just have a small enough ego to admit that and know mine really doesn’t matter). Just out of curiosity did I miss it – have you competed athletically against Armstrong?

          • Kenny, of course I did not complete athletically against Armstrong. But to refresh your memory, the only thing I commented on about was that the poster was out of his depth when he wrote about the 4 minute mile. That’s it. Like you, I was impressed with everything else he wrote. FYI, when it comes to Track & Field, I happen to be a big fan, I have attended most of the big meets domestically, including the last several Olympic Trials. So when a guy writes something that does not ring true, I comment on it. That’s it. All of that other stuff you wrote was a waste of your time.

          • Kenny

            Much less a waste of my time than when I “wasted” my time to read a little story you wrote about a horse of yours that tested positive for a powerful nerve blocker (which of course you said the positive was from contamination). Didn’t you say a positive for lidocaine for one of your horses years ago (before testing was very sophisticated and able to detect minute substances) was from a groom supposedly dipping clippers into lidocaine to cool the clippers off and then somehow the horse was nicked with the clippers which then somehow resulted in a positive? Barry that is when you ceased to always “ring true” in my book. Sorry, I struggle to believe that a lidocaine positive was the result of dipping really hot clippers into a liquid like lidocaine (which by the way can be flammable and isn’t something I’ve EVER observed just sitting around in open containers in the barns I’ve been in).

    • johnnyknj

      Very helpful insight, but I would point out that you cannot compare human and equine athletes as if they were interchangeable. A few reasons why:
      1. Most horses are immature at the start of their careers. Automatically assuming the Travers winner was doped is sloppy reasoning. He is a 3yo and undoubtedly still developing, particularly as he was a late starter. Would you compare a human runners times at 18 and then at 22 and assume he was cheating?
      2. Horses can’t provide direct verbal feedback about their condition or training preference. When Allen Jerkens improved a horse beyond what an obscure, mediocre trainer had done, I don’t think it was cheating. So blanket assumptions don’t work. Horsemanship still makes a difference.
      3. Horses very frequently have physical problems that are undetected (again, no talking) that, when solved, vastly improve performance.

      That said, you ideas about setting threshold levels are interesting.

      • Your points are well taken, but re you an apologist, an optimist or simply naive when it comes to the amount of doping going on today at the highest level of the sport?

        • johnnyknj

          None of the above. You know me Barry, although evidently not by my screen name. I’m actually a realist/pessimist. I don’t think we will get this even close to under control before racing contracts back to a rich mans hobby, as it was at it’s beginnings. I also think sophisticated blood doping is likely widespread, and as it is an expensive proposition, more prevalent as you move up the pyramid. Just pointing out that blanket assumptions rarely work with horses. As we say on the backside “even when you know, you don’t know”.

          • I hear you loud and clear. And I agree with you that a back-to-basics approach following a necessary contraction is probably the best way to go. Unfortunately, those blue bloods who were the sportsmen and women have mostly left the game because Uncle Sam is no longer as big a partner for them as he once was. Currently only a handful of them remain, folks such as Strawbridge, Webber, Phipps Family, Phillips, etc. You may notice one very prominent name excluded because based on some recent decisions it is obvious that this individual is more interested in winning than winning on merit.

          • johnnyknj

            Now I need to figure out who you mean. More time frittered away on racing!

  • G. Rarick

    It doesn’t have to be complicated. It really doesn’t. Every thoroughbred needs to be microchipped, and where the horse is standing must be reported to a governing body at all times and available for testing, at that location, whenever the governing body wants to show up. If the horse is not where it’s supposed to be, you’re already in violation of the rules. If this is over some people’s heads or technological capabilities (which it shouldn’t be), the very, very, very least that MUST happen, and on a global scale, is that ANY horse entered in ANY pattern race ANYWHERE must be available for testing the minute the ink is dry on the entry. That means when Wesley Ward enters his two-year-olds in Europe, a vet shows up to test them in America. That means when John Gosden enters a horse in America, a vet shows up in England to test it. If this isn’t done, it removes all credibility from anything purporting to be clean racing. At the very least, we should do it for the Pattern races.

  • David Stevenson

    Out of competition testing is easy to understand on the world stage of human sport. One athlete; one administration and regulatory body; one administrative chart as to how it works that is plainly understood by the “competitors”. But it is difficult to infuse any form of confidence into the professional horsemen’s ranks with a disjointed system of testing, administrations and a rather vague, if any, appeal apparatus. Are we focusing more on perception or accuracy? The administrative fellow in the suit and tie is far removed from horseman with 100 head worth 10 million dollars spread over five states ruled by varying degrees of testing and experience in adjudication. This can’t be a “trickle down” educational process. There must be a fundamental chart of how, when, why and how this procedure is going to effect the governed! Let’s indicate the journey of the “test sample from beginning to end and how the process works and whether the out of testing sample” equals the same punitive decision as a performance infraction. Perhaps we missed it but so have many with the straw in their manes, who have yet to be afforded the unpolished fundamentals shrouding their futures.

  • Bobbie Irish

    I see people all the time, basically accusing top winning trainers of cheating, or intimating as much. If this is all truly such a big deal to all of you folks, and is in fact, important for the horses, why not just blurt out the names of these potentially cheating trainers, so we novices can watch for them? Please, put your information where your mouths are!!!!!

    • Bobbie Irish

      You say “everyone is talking on the back side and the front side”, well, tell us what they are saying. If you don’t, you play right into the hand of the so called cheaters. Either they are, or they aren’t and you think they are. If it is the latter, then by all means, keep the names close to the vest.

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