25 December 2008

Drugs In Horse Racing 101



It just amazes that some trainers are able to hit at 20%+ levels. Most races average 8-9 horses, so the average trainer should be hitting at around 11-12%. Yes, some are better than others. Some are hands on and they know what they are looking at, while others maintain a production line type of operation. But there are only so many ways to train a horse.

Nowadays, whenever I see a 20%+ trainer, or a major improvement in speed figures (especially at a previously run distance) by a less than "above average" trainer, I always assume drugs that aren't being tested for have helped the horse out more than the trainer has.

I don't think that is an unreasonable position to take either, since many of the suspensions and busts we see have to do with the supply side first.

Take the recent suspension of horsemen Daniel and Scott McFadden. The two got "ratted" out for buying Aranesp® (brand name for darbepoetin-alfa which is known as DPO) before their horses were tested for the substance (investigators found traces of EPO as well).

In 2006 this happened:

Notice to Industry DiFlorio pleads guilty

Sandy DiFlorio, of Toronto – charged last year after authorities seized large quantities of various controlled drugs and adulterated, unlabeled substances – plead guilty last week in Provincial Criminal Court to the unlawful fabrication, packaging and distribution of drugs without a license, and the unlawful sale of a Schedule F drug (erythropoietin - commonly known as EPO) contrary to the Food and Drugs Act.

In April of 2006, the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) Investigations Unit, working with other police and regulatory services, participated in the execution of search warrants at two Toronto area locations. Products used for performance enhancement of racehorses were seized, including the blood builder Aranesp®, strong analgesics, bronchiole dilators and sildenafil citrate.

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Who are the horses who wound up using the drugs supplied? Where are the trainer and/or vet suspensions that resulted from this investigation? You don't just catch a drug dealer and assume that he just got into business yesterday and was unlucky enough to get caught right away. Most recently Ken Hornick got nailed as well. Again, the same questions can be asked.

It is a fair assumption that DiFlorio and Hornick had active client bases and that there are many horses who ran faster times and screwed over the public and fellow horsemen probably a countless amount of times.

Oh yeah, and because DiFlorio was not licensed with the ORC, he had to turn over his drugs and was fined a whopping $600, and then was a free man.
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I just don't understand why those who use and supply illegal drugs to race horses aren't nailed with larger charges: HOW ABOUT CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD THE PUBLIC!

Yes, tests for DPO, EPO, etc. are expensive. But obviously the fines and suspensions are not a large enough deterrence. I think criminal charges and hard time need to lobbied for.



From my internet perusings I've decided to list off many of the known drugs that have been plaguing the game of horse racing in recent years (I'm not even sure if there are tests for some of these or if they are ever performed). These drugs are administered to bring about artificially enhanced performances:

ANABOLIC STEROIDS
Many states have no laws regarding anabolic steroid use on horses, but there has been an aggressive change in attitude lately with New York and Kentucky leading the way to their banning.
Why ban anabolic steroids? Because they artificially build up a horse's strength and because they have been known to have adverse long term affects, at least on humans.

BICARBS
Using bicarbonates (milkshaking) on horse cleans up the lactic acids that are produced naturally in horses. Less lactic acids help the horses chances to run faster and longer.
As an aside, I was talking to a harness trainer who told me that he complained about the turnaround a horse had to another trainer. He said that the trainer of that improved horse must be milkshaking, to which the other trainer replied "he bought my old bicarb machine, do you need one?"
Many jurisdictions try to test for excess bicarbonates in the blood stream. Obviously there must be ways around it.

BLUE MAGIC
Propantheline bromide relaxes muscles and increases blood flow.

COCAINE
Benzoylecgonine is a bi-product of cocaine and results in a horse being less fatigued during a race.

DPO
Darbepoetin-alfa which is a major ingredient in the prescription drug Aranesp® is becoming as notorious in Ontario as EPO (see below). The drug increases blood flow and reduces anemia. Long term side effects are thought to be similar to that of EPO as well.

EPO
Erythropoietin is probably the most talked about illegal drug that is thought to be used in many jurisdictions including Ontario. EPO has a bad rap associated with it besides being an illegal enhancer, it allegedly can cause horrible long term side effects like an immune mediated anaemia and even death.
What EPO does in a nutshell is increase the red blood supply which increases oxygen capacity within the horse's circulation.
For more about the devastation EPO does to the horse read this.

ETORPHINE And MORPHINE
Etorphine (aka elephant juice) has analgesic tendencies that are 1000 times more powerful than morphine. This drug is used to immobilize elephants. For some reason analgesics even in small doses act as stimulants in animals like horses and cats. FYI from Wikipedia: "Veterinary-strength etorphine is fatal to humans; one drop on the skin can cause death within a few minutes."

PROCAINE
This drug is common in dentistry on humans for local anesthesia. In horse racing it used nefariously as a pain killer that also can constrict blood vessels which reduces bleeding.

SILDENAFIL CITRATE
AKA Viagra, yes, Viagra. Viagra opens blood vessels which enriches muscles which is thought to enhance racing performance. Instead of making jokes here, check out the PACE ADVANTAGE FORUM thread that I started recently, if you want some examples of those caught using Viagra on horses and of course, some laughs.

SNAIL AND SNAKE VENOM
In an article over 3 years ago, Andy Beyer mentioned the strong rumour that trainers were using cone snail venom in synthetic form as a pain killer on horses.
Cobra venom has been in the news lately during the Biancone fiasco. It is used to deaden nerves and has been around at least since 1978 when Alydar allegedly was treated with it.

VODKA
A reader just alerted me that a high percentage trainer, Justin Evans, in Turf Paradise got nailed because a horse of his got injected with Vodka (to kill pain).
Back in 2005 a vet admitted to injecting vodka 75 times at $15 a pop. The vet called this a "pre-race adjustment" on the bill. They have to be using something cheap at Turf Paradise. The purses there are abysmal.


I'm sure I've missed a few drugs that are being tested (by trainers) today. But I just wanted to give my readers a dose of what bettors and the racing game is up against.
Not only do bettors have to try to overcome an average track takeout of 21%, but we also have to factor in whether a horse is doped up today or was doped up in the past when they came up with extraordinary results.
Potenetial claiming outfits have to worry about whether a horse is on its last legs because of EPO or DPO use. This is a major deterrent when claiming a horse.

As stated earlier, drug violations should not only be met with gigantic fines and suspension but also actual criminal charges as well.

RMTC (Racing Medication & Testing Consortium) has a site set up that picks up industry headlines having to do with drugs and horse racing. Check it out.

They also have a resource available to horsemen that allows them to check out drug withdrawal times for every jurisdiction in North America. Here is the link.

Of course, all withdrawal times should be uniform in North America. Should is a very tough word to act on in horse racing though. There should also be uniformity for which drugs can be used as well. Maybe one day.

Two more things. All race tracks and jurisdictions should follow Tampa Bay Downs example of making public on their sites the Stewards' Daily Reports and Stewards' Rulings.

Woodbine has their own site, and the HPI site as well, and there is also the Ontario Racing Commission site. Good luck finding anything to do with jockey or trainer suspensions. It is just one big secret.

Finally, I just want to repeat one of Bill Finley's biggest complaints. A must read: Lasix also one of the drugs that has no place in the game
Bottom line according to Finley; "it appears that Lasix doesn't solve bleeding or keep horses in training longer. Then what does it do? According to the World Anti-Doping Agency, it masks other drugs."

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

Add Vodka to the list. Trainer Justin Evans was just hit 180 days for injecting his horses with enthanol. Helps them run through the pain.

Six months from now he'll be back "training" again. In the meantime he'll be calling the "shots" to his assistant via cell phone.

It never ends.

Cangamble said...

Thanks, I added it to the list. There are a few high percentage trainers at Turf Paradise. But they have to being using something cheap because of the purse structure there.

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Anonymous said...

I'll be interested in reading the TB Stewart's Report for Tuesday Dec 23rd the 6th race why the winner wasn't DQ'D.
RG

Winston...not really said...

I have often wondered why the RICO act isn't used in this context.

rather rapid said...

i think you are way overstating the case with a few isolated examples and creating a gross overreaction in whoever reads this. your good point of severe punishment gets lost when you bring up lasix, a therapeutic drug, and compare it with illegal performance enhancers. the post in general imo opinion bespeaks of lack of experience on the back stretch, and failure to analyze what really goes on. Certainly there's always a percentage of humans everywhere that try to cheat. by my experience, these medicine men in horse racing rarely win races and they almost always get caught, eventually. remember, in assessing punishment, you've got some intelligent men there called stewards that dole it out. sometimes things are less black and white than you have crafted here, and I think the idea you are attempting to portray, which is generally false and overexaggerated, is harmful to the sport.

Cangamble said...

Rather Rapid, I think you are missing the point. I'm not speculating on frequency that cheating goes on, only that it does go on, and I've outlined various drugs that have been used in the past.
As for lasix, I'm just bring out Finley's point where he states that lasix does not achieve what it is supposed to achieve, and acts like a masking agent for other drugs.

There is a certain percent of trainers who cheat. We know that. What is the percentage? Fill me in since I'm so naive.

Anonymous said...

Andy Crevolin owner of 1954 Kentucky Derby winner Determine,"not all entries in a race are well meant." I believed him and have spent the last 54 years betting accordingly.
RG

Anonymous said...

Canada should try and follow the laws of Hong Kong. Example C. Muncie was jailed 30 months for touting his own mounts to win and under the anti corrupt laws in HK he was convicted and did the time. People felt it was a stiff fine, but reality was, when he rode and did not tout his horse was he a go or stiffing it was noted he touted 21 winners in 39? When I look at all the fines given in Ontario I wonder how many would have got jail sentences in Hong Kong. Racing in Canada will never change on drugs or cheats cause whats the end result a fine. But the betters will and the decline that Woodbine notes is known to all the integrity.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Drugs in the sport how many trainers used the services of the late Fred Rogers? Drugs are not going away cause the govern system has no laws to change it. Woodbine is finally understanding that the harness game has some serious issues with integrity. The decline in pools and fans speaks volumes

rather rapid said...

to reply: to me your post smacks of ubiquitous cheating on the backstretch and uses two isolated examples in support. your response stated you are declining to speculate on the extent of cheating whereas your original post implied that whenever you see good win %s you presume drugs. the post smacks with the implication of ubiquitous cheating on the backstretch without a scintilla of evidence that this is the case. Sorry, two isolated examples fails to do it for me, and, TB racing is other than standardbred.

It's unfortunate that some punters continue to insist the sport is crooked when by and large my experience is otherwise. There's a misperception out there that causes TB racing to misallocate resources to a questionably existing problem. Possibly some of the misperception results from the "trainer responsibility rule" and how this is enforced. Every violation of this is treated the same in the press, whereas I think the perception might be changed if racing were to label its violations. There are felonies, misdeameanors and just traffic tickets. In racing it seems every violation is perceived/misperceived as a felony.

Anonymous said...

Hey! Loved the thought on busting them for defrauding the public. That would be very appropiate indeed. We are holding our breath to see how long before Evans finds a way to beat this. He always seems to squirm out of everything. Including paying his bills. Also he told everybody his splits got lost at the lab and he was home free. Somebody made a call and checked on that and the very next day they appeared!!! Otherwise I think he was fixing t get away again. You would not believe someof the things that go on at Turf, but it does seem like there has been a bit more enforcement lately. There's a new steward in town and I think he is making a difference. Apparently he wants to be involved in a cleaner racing industry. I suppose they will get rid of him quickly!!!!! Just found this blog by accident. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

One very effective move that ALL racing justidictions can put into use is having a STATE EMPLOYEE ride with the vets as a witness. It would not even have to be every vet, every day. It would be very interesting to see if a high percentage trainer would have an "off" day when the witness was riding with the vet doing his work.
I agree on the RICO law. With inter-state wagering etc, this has to be federal crimes. Talk about defrauding the public. The horses that were trained by Evans now going to honest trainers are going to reverse their forms and the unknowing bettors are going to wonder what the heck happened!

Anonymous said...

RATHER RAPID, I think you are mistaken about all violations being labeled together. Here is Az. there are violations by the regular trainer, and then violations by the favored few. Believe me, the penalities are no where near the same!

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Cangamble said...

Rather Rapid, the only reason I believe they are isolated cases is that many of these drugs and treatments are too expensive to test or they don't test.
I do believe strongly that 18% plus trainers are doing something that is gray area plus thoroughbred or harness trainers included.

Anonymous said...

I would agree 100% if a trainer has a strike rate above 20% red flags are raised. Look at the history in Ontario. I can think of several trainers who had went through years of having little or no success, to having win % of 25 to 30%. I would say there names but anyone who knows racing knows who they are. For anyone to say the game is on the up and up is crazy. Like what was noted above how many trainers used the services of Mr. Rogers????????/

Anonymous said...

You forgot about amicar. There are 2 kinds, red and white. Only a test for 1. Guess which 1 Contessa, Dutrow and Levine use?

rather rapid said...

I believe your opinions would change with more specific knowledge of what occurs on the backstretch. Sure, a particular trainer with a suddenly dramatic increase in win percentage, everything else being equal, raises red flags. How many times does that happen, and do you really think the stewards fail to notice this sort of thing? Or, as in our neck of the woods, the KBIA (Kansas Bureau of Investigation) Officers that patrol the barns almost every meet.

I am without any direct knowledge of what goes on in Canada. But, I've been on a lot of backstretches. Here's my best guess:
100 horses go to post at Aqueduct today. 0% of these will have any performance enhancer in their system. Maybe 10-15% will have some sort of therapeutic but illegal med, either deliberately adminstered or insufficient time lapsed to race, for the sole purpose of permitting the horse to run.

Sometime this month probably some idiot will try to sneak in a horse with a performance enhancer. I say "idiot" since the reason the horse is bugged is because the guy can't train, and also is a certifiable idiot since he's endangering his very livelihood to win a single purse. The odds of the performance enhancer working for this guy are almost nil, and if the horse would finish in the top 3 or be randomly selected for testing, what are the odds the fellow will be caught?

To suppose this sort of thing is ubiquitous and laughed at or ignored by the racing commision is absurd. For the fellow who posted that somebody should follow the vets into the barns, be assured that frequently the cops do exactly that.

The problem with the basic attitude expressed here is that naturally racing reacts to its customer base and unfortunatley we have costly overtesting and other integrity iniatives whereas the resources could be better spent elsewhere. Howabout increasing the takeout to 40% so we can have a world leading drug testing program for every horse. Would that make you all happy?

rather rapid said...

I forgot to post as to those horses carrying therapeutic meds, illegal possibly. Put yourself in position of the trainer of a beloved horse facing either racing on an illegal med or the end of their racing career. Take this one step further and understand that its at the end of the racing career that the problems begin for most of these horses and understand, for the trainer and the animal in their care, sometimes there's more to it then black and white.

Cangamble said...

Rather Rapid, I'm not as naive about the backstretch as you think. Not even close. You are either naive, or you are being dishonest.
As for raising takeout to handle the testing, you obviously are a horseman. Raising takeouts cause the amount that tracks take in during any prolonged period of time, less. Lowering takeout might give tracks extra money to do more testing though.

rather rapid said...

Can Gamble i enjoy your blog, and hope you keep at 'em with the handle issue. however, the implications of this post are contrarty to my experience and the general jist of continuing to publish these misconceptions does a great disservice and waste of resources in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Then hit the road.

Cangamble said...

Rather Rapid, I hope you can continue enjoying the blog. But I don't think this post was a waste at all.
Horsemen don't rat each other out, however, you seem to be the only horseman here who is protesting.

rather rapid said...

yes. i did notice that.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard what J.Evans got for SURE for suspension? Can these suspensions be appealed and won? Think he'll work for someone until he gets his license back?

Anonymous said...

If he goes to the azoah (administrative law hearing) he can beat it. Because the state attorney general that handles the race cases can't figure out the business. He just doesn't get it. I t would be like taking a dentist and having him try to win a race industry case. The judge is sitting there with no earthly idea what is going on. The lawyer they all use is outstanding in this setting. She just pounds the state into the ground. Half the time the stewards don't show up to defend their own case. Only if they have it out for you. So, yeah there is a possibility he can beat it.He has missed his deadline for an appeal. But has other legal avenues to get to this azoah point. In fact we have heard the Director of Racing doesn't want to hear the case. Wants to pass it right on to the azoah. Hot potato I guess. He could possibly get an injunctiion or stay, but I don't think either one would over ride the track owner's eviction of him. If the state won't clean it up I guess the track owner will.

Anonymous said...

I have heard he has been told to LEAVE Turf Paradise, so his stalls/barn will be no more. Will he be able to appeal and race at other tracks as a trainer or he can't until a final decision is made? I have HEARD they hire good lawyers and get out of alot of these race cases and end up with just a slight suspension and fine and back in action. you would THINK if he gets back into training he'll clean up his act wouldn't ya? or he WILL be done forever. Wonder if Canterbury in Minnesota will take him back next year...

Cangamble said...

What I don't get is that I haven't read a word about it on any search for his name on the internet.
It is amazing how the industry sweeps these things under the rug.

Anonymous said...

I heard that EVANS got 30 days suspension and that is it. He'll be back in action again somewhere soon.

Anonymous said...

Phone number for Az. Racing Comm. 602-364-1700 ask for Director Luis marquez and ask him EXACTLY what the Dept. is going to do about Evans. Enough calls and maybe they'll get the idea people are sick of being stolen from. When you are head and head at the top of the lane with a horse who has a milkshake,vodka,shockwave treatment a day or two before etc. YOU'RE BEING STOLE FROM!!!

Anonymous said...

Cangamble is correct. TVG and Az. Republic both go on and on about the High percentage of Mr. Evans as a trainer and OMG!! when he claims a horse, well it is just like turning water into wine!, but NOT ONE SINGLE ARTICLE about any of the positives, not one. Until the media is honest about racing, it will never change. Call these trainers what they are, dishonest and cheaters who have no regard for the horses or the riders they use. It is all about the money,period. Good ridance, Mr. Evans I think you are running out of racetracks to go to, maybe you can enter something at the match races in the desert, oh wait, those guys make you pay up when you lose and we all know you won't pay anybody so that is out too. I hear McDONALDS is hiring. Practice saying this, "WOULD YOU LIKE FRYS WITH THAT?"
Oh darn, they do a pre-employment drug test, that might not work out for you either....

Anonymous said...

I am not saying Mr. Evans is right in what he is doing but I don't feel there is a need to say now that HE DOES drugs personally. I know for a FACT he is not into drugs nor does he drink much at all. He is WRONG to do these things to his horses to get wins, I totally agree. But he is not on drugs - so please don't say things like that when they are UNTRUE.

Anonymous said...

You are probably correct, by the time he gets done with his horses there isn't any left over for personal use.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know a status on this with Mr. Evans at Turf? Is he doing a suspension and then will be back training? Any updates?

Anonymous said...

Article in paper Sat.said the Director lowered the 180 days to 60. Gas appeal coming up at he administative law judge but no date for it yet. That's about it for now.

Anonymous said...

UUHHH..... Make that Has appeal, not GAS appeal!!! All tho the whole hearing will probably be full of gas. HOT AIR!!

Anonymous said...

do you have a link to that article from Saturday's paper or what paper was it in??

Anonymous said...

It was in the Arizona Republic but never showed up on their site. It was page C-4 of the sports section. He now has a hearing scheduled 2-19-09 in front of administative law judge. The director passed it off to them.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Mr. Evans will be up and training again in a couple of weeks. His suspension will be over. Let's hope he changes his ways and gets to training the right way. I really HOPE he has learned from this!

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Anonymous said...

just wanted to let you know that the vodka dosnt kill pain. it is used to calm crazy or hyper horses down. and its not injected

Anonymous said...

Maybe YOU don't inject it but there are many that do. 60ccs mainline. And yes they do it to calm them down AND to get the extra carbs. Seen it done many times. Unfortunately I seem to have better eyesight than the investigators. If yo tell them where to look they will get as far away from that barn as they can get that day.

Anonymous said...

azoah judge ruled against Evans but did think a 6 month suspension was too harsh. That decision went BACK to the Director of Racing who upheld it BUT added the 6 months BACK on!! So it is $3150 fine and 6 months I guess. BUT then Evans got another stay and is to now appear before the Commission to try to overturn it. Meantime he is business as usual. This all happened about 2 weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

I see he is back training again now at Lone Star. He has stalls there and opening day is next week. I don't think he has very many horses but I don't know that for sure.
are you saying he could get SUSPENDED again and for 6 months now? When will a decision be made on this?

Anonymous said...

I guess from what I have heard from people that got notices is that Evans has a hearing in front of the commission May 13th. I wonder if he knows they can actually add on to the penalty he already is fighting. Might wish he just took what he had before it is over with.

Anonymous said...

7 BAD TESTS FOR LEADING TRAINER BILL BAINUM AT YAVAPAI! SUSPENDED AND TOLD TO BE OFF THE GROUNDS BY NOON 8/18/2009! LIDOCAINE POSITIVES! AS OF NOW, NO STAY ISSUED!!

Anonymous said...

What is it with you Arizona people? Can't you run horses clean?

Anonymous said...

The charges on Bainum are BOGUS. He was framed, and it will be proved.
The real corruption is with Violet "pinky" Smith, the Chief steward, who has slept with more than half the male trainers in Arizona.

no.evil@live.com

Anonymous said...

Justin Evans and all the Rarick's are a joke for the horse business cheaters,,!!!