Letter from the President - June
As I write this, we stand on the brink of history. Big Brown will attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner in thirty years. I love the publicity surrounding a run at immortality, and I hope the rest of the world has a chance to experience how exciting and magnificent the sport of racing is. However, we will attempt to deny Big Brown’s quest with our colt Macho Again. Macho Again ran second in the Preakness and will try to turn the tables in New York.
While it is easy for us to focus on the prestige and glamour of the Triple Crown, it is time to address a chronic issue facing our sport, steroids. While steroids are legal in most states, both steroids and growth hormones should be banned from the entire sport. Fortunately, horses are tested for steroids at the auctions, however it is common knowledge that steroidal withdrawal symptoms do not show up for 30-45 days. Steroids, as well as corrective surgeries, mask serious defects in horses and perpetuate a dangerous cycle in the sport – a cycle that, at times, ends in catastrophic injury on the racetrack.
The enforcement of banning steroids is a tall order. Ninety-nine percent of horsemen want to participate on a level playing field, and the use of steroids in certain jurisdictions and not others shatters any possibility of equality. In the end, the health and welfare of thoroughbreds would improve if the use of all steroids went away. My opinion aside, it seems that steroids will inevitably be banned in thoroughbred racing just as they have in steeplechase racing and, more importantly,all other professional sports. The question is how? In a sport regulated by factional governing bodies it will require more than sheer will. As it is today, our sport lacks a universal governing entity. Each state has its own regulatory body comprised of different interests. Some commissions are dominated by political appointees while others are filled with horsemen.
To make meaningful changes, we must evaluate the bureaucracies of each racing state. To this end, we need high profile owners and trainers to critique the system and take action. As the saying goes, true change comes from within. I have become intrigued by the idea of more federal regulation in the sport. I know some might not see that as the answer. To them I ask, “What is your solution?” Admittedly, I still have more questions than answers on the subject, but I feel strongly that we must take a stand. The future of our great sport is at stake.