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Dug In on Drug Use in Horse Racing Industry 

Wayne Pacelle

From: HSUS – Wayne Pacelle’s Blog
By: Wayne Pacelle

Wayne Pacelle

Wayne Pacelle of HSUS

The integrity of international cycling has been tarnished because of confirmed cases of doping at the highest rungs of the industry, with Lance Armstrong’s remarkable record nullified because of his use of performance-enhancing drugs. We have seen a series of scandals in Major League baseball, with Barry Bonds, the greatest home run hitter of all time, having a permanent asterisk by his achievement because of his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Both sports, in response to scandal and embarrassment, set up rigorous standards to prevent doping and to catch and punish violators.

In horse racing, there is continuing scandal, but little embarrassment. There is widespread drugging of equine athletes, but leaders of many racing organizations are fiercely resisting reforms at the national level, even though the whole enterprise engages in interstate gambling only with the consent of Congress.

It is common for racehorses in the United States to be given drugs on race day to enhance their performance, which stands in sharp contrast to horse racing standards in Australia, the United Kingdom, and other major racing nations. In the United States, there is a patchwork of over three dozen horse racing jurisdictions, all with different medications permitted, varying levels of those medications allowed, different penalties for violations, different rules on which horses are tested for drugs, and different laboratories used to do the testing. Without one single regulating body, racehorse owners and trainers who are barred from racing in one jurisdiction can simply move their business elsewhere. While racing without same-day medications is thriving around the globe, racehorses in the United States continue to be doped. They are breaking down with unacceptable frequency and run many fewer races during their careers, principally because they are not as healthy as their predecessors.

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