This seems like a good opportunity to embark on any number of projects an inveterate procrastinator can acquire. I have been in desperate need of cleaning out and reorganizing my files, so I grabbed a big one thinking I would be able to toss many of the clippings in it.
So I took the one labeled “Drugs I.” This is from back in the day when I thought a single file could contain several years of reporting on that topic. Nowadays, they are labeled “Drugs 2019, file 1,” “Drugs 2019, file 2,” etc. Since this file had articles from 2012 and 2013, I assumed I would be tossing most of them.
I did get rid of some, but here are some titles of ones that were unfortunately resonant:
- “A Derby Win, but a Troubled Record for a Trainer,” New York Times, May 10, 2012;
- “Facing horse racing’s drug problem,” ESPN.com, June 1, 2012;
- “Facing the leadership deficit,” ESPN.com, August 14, 2012;
- “Medication Reform Takes Step Toward Reality,” BloodHorse.com, December 14, 2012;
- “On Salix, Kentucky Feeling Alone on Ledge,” BloodHorse.com, March 14, 2013;
- “Lasix ban: Breeders’ Cup hand forced by waning support,” DRF.com, March 21, 2013;
- “Handicapping Dopers at the Racetrack,” New York Times, August 16, 2013;
- “Medication Reforms Carry Sense of Urgency,” BloodHorse.com, August 13, 2013;
- “Law Panelists Note Progress in Drug Reform,” BloodHorse.com, August 13, 2013;
- “Sheikh Mohammed launches inquiry after police seize drugs from Dubai jet,” The Guardian, September 29, 2013;
- “Uniform medication reform again a major topic at Round Table,” DRF, August 13, 2013;
- “Racing’s credibility on line over lack of doping transparency,” independent,ie, December 9, 2013;
- And, my favorite: “Time for racing leaders to get their heads out of the sand,” TDN link to tenoonan.com, December 11, 2013.
I am guessing the only ones not disturbed by that listing are those who have successfully resisted or slow-walked any meaningful reform in a sport desperately in need of a significant overhaul. I did not get a headline that reflected the remarks of Travis Tygart, head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, at the 2012 Jockey Club Round Table. But it is a sad reminder of how long an alternative that could save racing as a sport has been out there.
There are some sidelights that make the above-list even more disturbing. The first is that the 2012 Derby reference means that in three of the last eight Kentucky Derbies there have been questions about impermissible drugs by the trainers of horses who crossed the finish line in first place.
The other is the reference to Sheikh Mohammed, head of racing’s most powerful operation, and the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates. The Guardian reports that “[t]housands of pounds worth of unlicensed products – including steroidal injections, anaesthetics and anti-inflammatories that have been described a ‘potentially toxic and dangerous to horses’ – were seized and destroyed by the UK Border Agency….” The investigator appointed by the Sheikh to conduct the investigation is his wife, Princess Haya. While she is indeed a respected horse person in her own right, it’s his wife.
The sad part of this is that any of those headlines could have been written this year – except, of course, for ones suggesting progress on drug reform efforts. Racing is living on borrowed time, and the time for changes was evident eight years ago.