McGaughey Talks Lasix, USADA Oversight

by | 10.23.2015 | 12:43pm
Honor Code trainer Shug McGaughey.

“I think a lot of us use Lasix as a crutch.”

Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey spoke with Karen Johnson of Thoroughbred Racing Commentary in a wide-ranging interview.  McGaughey said he is more than ready to move away from using Lasix, having already done so with 2-year-olds in his barn owned by the Phipps Stable and Stuart Janney, though not until all the other trainers stop using it in their horses.

Is this because he believes Lasix is a performance enhancer? McGaughey says he isn't sure, but “if it helps another horse breathe better, then I'm at a bit of a disadvantage if I'm not using it.”  For horses in his care that are known “bleeders,” he lists a hyperbaric chamber and more turnout time in the fresh air as alternatives to utilizing the drug.

McGaughey is also in favor of federal legislation that would be the United States Anti-Doping Agency in charge of medication regulations.  He points out that issues with withdrawal times, such as the recent Graham Motion methocarbamol case, could be easily avoided with a centralized authority that would provide clarity.  He believes that the USADA would “take a little bit of speculation out of the equation.”

Also in the interview are McGaughey's thoughts on his Breeders' Cup Classic pre-entrant Honor Code's preparations.

Read more at Thoroughbred Racing Commentary

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  • Excellent interview, common sense answers from an uncommon trainer. I really enjoyed reading it.

  • Barbara Bowen

    This is a must read for anyone that cares about racing. Plain speaking for a change.

  • Bryan Langlois (ShelterDoc)

    His 2YO Sail Ahoy is my current Derby horse for next year…

  • Forthegipper

    What’s wrong with helping a horse breathe better.

    • Tinky

      Two things:

      It enhances performances (see clenbuterol in particular), and masks issues that need to be known in order to breed horses that are sounder of wind.

    • Ben van den Brink

      If those problems are due to inflamation, you need to fight of the inflamation and give them medications for dooiing so, but certainly not a diuretic.

      I know that good bloodtesting is costing much more than a shot of lasix, but the results are much better too.

      • Chancey Gardner

        They just want shortcuts and quick results, mainly because a lot of owners are just concerned with the same. I personally heard from an owner who derided two HOF old school trainers, saying that “they never run”. He wasn’t placated with my pointing out that time is sometimes the best cure for an ailment. That is even more reason to take away the raceway crutches to force more sensible training practices.

        • CG, I thought that the consensus was that Old School ran far more often. Sounds like you were talking to a typical owner – God bless them, every one.

  • disqus_KsjWyHvfgF

    Right on target…. Indeed the common sense that has been uncommon in racing… Lasix more about keeping up with other trainers than a necessary therapeutic for every horse. And he even notes the big picture risk to US thoroughbred in breeding mares that bleed to stallions that bleed…..I agree.. I would like to see start of lasix free conditions with big purses, maiden special 2yo, the through other ages and levels…still could run majority with lasix to not shock the industry, but need some lasix free conditions, ideally with high purses….

  • Smithy

    Why not give a horse a 3 pound allowance if he doesn’t use lasix just a little bonus for now

  • Smithy

    By using lasix we are breeding horses that will be bleeders .This is evolution.

    • Chancey Gardner

      And it just gives cheater more opportunity. Getting rid of it, race day is a win-win.

    • Unless they go to Europe where the change of air cures them?

  • dispute92

    It is nice to read an interview by a trainer I truly respect. Shug knows what this whole issue is about. He is one of the honest ones in this business. Racing does need a centralized authority dealing with the drug issues. Trust me, these tracks know what is going on but close their eyes to it for fear they will lose trainers from their tracks. In some cases, well known trainers. When will the horse’s well being be no. 1 on their (the tracks) list and not who shows up for the dance? I know… I am in my own little dream world.

  • Mike Oliveto

    I posted the below comments on TRC:

    While I have the utmost respect for McGaughey, I continue to shake my head with respect to the Lasix debate. It makes the Bengazi hearings look like a coffee clutch. The first sentence of McGaughey’s answer to the Lasix question is, “What is important to me is that we get a presumption out there that we are legit.” When discussing the topic of public perception of integrity I’d have to say that, in the list of the top 10 integrity related issues, Lasix ranks 11th. When you have habitual cheaters accommodated with stalls at major tracks, slap-on-the-wrist penalties for blatant and repeated drug infractions, appeals that take years before being resolved, jockeys sharing whips during the race, buzzers, etc., etc., etc. why is something as nebulous as Lasix getting all the attention? I think that if we back-burner the conversation about Lasix and instead focus on big time fines, suspensions, and stall denials for the bad seeds (we all know who the usual suspects are) we’d take a much bigger step towards creating a perception of integrity than if we ban a medication that certainly has some (if not significant) therapeutic value.

    • Ernest Vincent

      Curious where you stand.
      Will you be betting the Brd. Cup races?
      Do you (how often) do you bet at least once a month on

      average? Or abstain?

  • Lefty_Orioles_Fan

    Yes, that interview was an excellent read, thank you for bringing it to my attention.
    Maybe Shuggy Baby is being humble, but he seems to think AP is the horse to beat.
    Either way, we’ll see.

    Also, What was your biggest Breeders’ Cup disappointment?
    “I think Point of Entry [2012 Turf] was my biggest disappointment because
    Actually, 2012 was Shug’s best year financially, until 2013 hit with Orb.
    However, he really came into his own again these past few year and he’s had a lot of personal success. Quite frankly, he’s been a lot of fun to follow. Regardless of who wins, it should be the best Breeder’s Cup Classic ever. At least that is how I feel about it.

  • Chancey Gardner

    We should support the people who have the courage to speak out and stand for standardization and change, and do not support those who, for some reason, don’t think change is good for them.

  • Convene

    I’m interested that he mentions more turnout time. I think the bad air in barns has as much to do with EIPH as just about anything. Not sure how barns at the tracks could be set up better, but I believe we need to work on that. Also the genetic component. This is a successful trainer who knows what he’s talking about. I’d also agree about the USADA part. Someone has to have the authority and we need uniformity.

  • Kellye Pikul

    I was a huge Point of Entry fan but my biggest Breeders’ Cup disappointment will always be the 1989 BCC. Shug mentioned Charlie Whittingham’s prophetic quote — prepping at 12 furlongs was the kiss of death. Of course, the next year the JCGC was shortened to 10f.

  • Alex

    Shug’s words are far different from his actions. He races horses wit Lasix. Including Orb whend he won the Derby

    • Not at all. He said he races the Phipps/Janney 2yos without, then with at 3 and up. Same program with Orb.

      • Alex

        Fact. Lasix is helpful in preventing and reducing EIPH . So why put 2 year-olds at risk of the damage that can be caused by EIPH?

        • Ben van den Brink

          Almost everyone on this planet knows that 2 yrs old are hardly effected. It takes yrs in normal situation to develop.

          Lunatics are much more inclined than others, and keeping them nuts in the game is irresponsible.

          • Ben I don’t subscribe to the weight theory I’m afraid. This is not to be compared with taking x amount of weight off the horse’s back. Take some lasix and see if dry mouth dizziness and ringing in your ears makes you feel like running faster. There is more to it than weight.

          • Ben van den Brink

            There has done a lot of studies doen on this subject but even in the study published by the NAARV ( the group from the track vet,s) admitted that lasix enhaces the race performance.

            Weight might not the ONLY contributant ( do not know how to write that proper), but is a main one.

            Why has the handicap system ever been in place, since 250 yrs or more.

            Why is formula 1, always on the look out, to reduces weight??

          • As I said – try it!

          • Ben van den Brink

            As iam lacking substantial weight, and my heart is good, I do not need the stuff for reducing weight any further.

            I would love to gain some 30 pds to be to the point.

            What is the reason that 95% from all the thoroughbred starters in the US are getting the stuff, and in the rest of the world it is strictly forbidden on raceday.???

          • Why do you need to gain weight? Just try it in a dose to lose say 7lbs and see if you feel like running. I am against Lasix but I just wish everyone would admit why it’s so popular: because it muddies the water [ho ho]

          • Chancey Gardner

            When Euros come to the US and use Lasix because they want “the same race day advantages as the Yanks”, then I think you have a pretty clear, distinct answer.

          • Bizarrely enough, many of the big European stables – certainly their owners – think that America has the answers. Fortunately this opinion is not shared by the authorities here.

          • Ben van den Brink

            Bill, it was meant to lose weight for humans with heart problems, and that is what the stuff does.

            Pissing like a horse, not my piece of cake.

            I,ve lost one because of the bad bleeding, but not one second I would think of that kind of stuff in my lifetime.
            You will find those problems much more with them over excited,nuts ones, than on the relaxed horses.

            I weeded her out btw.

          • Ben, this is my last try: IMO lasix – in isolation – would most likely be detrimental to racing results. I have taken plenty of lasix in my youth and speak from that perspective. It seems to me that the attraction for some is that this is a useful tool in confusing the testing process and that others [perhaps less cynical than me] are afraid to put themselves at a disadvantage. Obviously this is a big [and repeat] business for the veterinary industry, and one can hardly accept most of what they publish as objective.

          • Ben van den Brink

            Bill, it seems to me that we differ just slightly. On the important points, Injecting by a private vet gives the opportunity to inject something else as well, within the timeframe. Each shot is 20 pounds so start counting it is considable income for the vet,s that why they started to fight of Any Change in US regulation.

          • We don’t differ at all on stopping it’s use, but it’s going to be hard with some people using it as a masking agent, some people terrified of being left behind, and the vets terrified of losing the income.

          • Ben van den Brink

            The estimated turnover from lasix shot,s alone in New York is more than 3 milj bucks, that,s a quaranteed basix income for quite a bunch of vet,s. So the vet,s will fight foot and nail for keeping the stuff, whether it works or not.

          • Kathy Agel

            It also leaches calcium from the bones — just what those fragile legs need. I’ve spoken to trainers who hate using it — but they feel they have to in order to remain competitive.

          • Alex

            Realville to Blinky.
            All Horses which includes
            2 year olds are subject to EIPH.

          • Ben van den Brink

            If their racing career will hold long enough, but since the average lifetime starts has declined from 30 in the eighties to less than 18 nowadays, that has become very slim. Unless breeding has become like this:

            Bleeding stallions mated to bleeding mares gives bleeding progency.

  • KARL Bittner

    Nice interview. Another one on board for USADA. I don’t think you can question his integrity.

  • Neigh Sayer

    Way to to Shug who said it with logic and common sense and honesty.
    Someone will always say, then why does he use Lasix while being against it. Because it would be irresponsible to his owners to not use it while everyone else does. It does give an advantage and no one wants to race at a disadvantage. He would like to stop using it, and is honest that it’s just a crutch and the other guy does.
    Against Lasix, and for the USADA. Honesty with integrity and another step in the right direction.

  • artistinwax

    What does “a touch offset” in the knees mean?

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