Reading yet again of a new illegal drug, dermorphin, I wonder when racing officials and owners will ever get it.
Racing like other sports is serious business and people who illegally medicate horses are not cheats – they are criminals. They are committing fraud, and yet there are virtually no consequences.
If these same fraudulent acts were committed in banking, real estate or other businesses and industries, people would be indicted. A District Attorney certainly could make a case against possession of illegal substances and interstate fraud. It is a felony to alter the outcome of a sporting event, and surely one with billions of dollars of legal wagering, so a basket full of felony charges should result.
Yet where is the law – the real law – not the stewards and appointed racing boards and commissions?
There are always going to be new drugs and criminals in every business venue; we are no different and no worse. Where we differ is the romantic notion that horse racing and sports are somehow different: not as serious, not as accountable.
Where is the outrage from the owners who lose to hopped-up horses? Until they start demanding that racing officials call the police, then nothing will change.
I have been training horses for 40 years, and no owner or potential owner has ever asked me if horses in my care have had any positive tests for prohibited drugs. There is no incentive to hire honest trainers, there is only an incentive to hire the criminals. If these trainers get caught, owners blithely move on to the next criminal trainer.
The illegal drugs are never detected right away. There is at least a year's lag time until someone tips off racing officials on what to look for. How many races are lost by honest people before tests are developed at the laboratories and the criminals either stop using that performance enhancing drug or get caught? How many bettors are defrauded?
I have said, and will continue to say, racing can be quickly cleaned up. Take a couple of trainers off the grounds in handcuffs and rule the doped horses off for a year. Overnight, owners will be looking for honest trainers.
The stats don't lie. When certain trainers are continually winning at an unrealistic percentage or changing the form of horse after horse, it's pretty clear. It is no different than baseball, with the all of a sudden ability to hit home runs by certain players, or the Olympics, where a runner or swimmer dramatically improves his or her performance. They all say “no drugs, better training techniques.” In the end, however, it always comes out, and it was always the drugs.
I wonder if I am the only one who is sure dermorphin was not confined to Louisiana and Southwestern states where Quarter horse racing is prevalent. I wonder about all the people defrauded out of winnings while this has been going on, and I wonder if racing will ever get serious about getting rid of the criminals. Nothing has changed in the 40 years I have been around, except a downward spiral.
Maybe we ought to try a novel approach: Give the honest guy a chance.
Christine K. Janks is a Thoroughbred owner, breeder and trainer with more than 1,650 career victories. The sixth-winningest trainer in Arlington Park history, she was Illinois breeder of the year on two occasions, served two terms as president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and on the board of directors of the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. She has never had a horse test positive for an illegal drug.
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