Horses One, Druggers Zero

Since my new novel He Trots the Air is about drugging horses, I’m particularly sensitive to the fact that doping horses persists in The Sport of Kings. My eye was caught recently by a news item about the Breeders’ Cup board of directors, who work toward protecting both the Thoroughbred athletes and the integrity of the sport.

To keep rogue trainers from drugging their horses, Breeders’ Cup officials approved a policy in September 2010 that gives horses a chance to run drug-free in the fourteen-race Breeders’ Cup World Championships. (The 26 million dollar event will be at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, on November 5 and 6.) The policy will take effect in 2011. In strengthening previous resolutions, the Breeders’ Cup board should take pride in punishing any trainer who tries to subvert ethical standards in horse racing and endangers his or her horse. The policy is about Class 1 and Class 2 drugs.

The Association of Racing Commissioners International oversees a number of racing organizations, crafting model rules and suggested penalties. RCI defines Class 1 and Class 2 drugs as those that affect a horse’s performance, but have no justifiable therapeutic value. Examples are blood-enhancing drugs, opiates, amphetamines, depressants, stimulants, powerful painkillers, and blood-doping drugs.

The resolution bans any trainer from participating in the Breeders’ Cup if his or her horse tested positive for Class 1 or 2 drugs in the preceding year. The trainer cannot start any horses in the Breeders’ Cup while he or she is serving out the suspension. If a horse tests positive for these drugs three times, the trainer will be banned for life from the Breeders’ Cup races.
Many of us wish that rogue trainers could be banned for life for just one infraction.

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