- Here's the link to an extraordinarily disturbing exposé on Recordonline.com, the website for the Catskills-based Times Herald Record. It concerns the suspected widespread use of the blood doping agent EPO at the upstate harness track Monticello Raceway. It's well worth reading, with a lot of increasingly familiar talk about snake venom, Epogen, Aranesp, and the difficulty in effective testing for these substances. What's different here is the magnitude that's being alleged:
Tony D'Acunto, who for a decade has owned horses that compete at Monticello, believes half the horsemen are using EPO.One thing I found most interesting about the article was to learn that steroids are used to mask the presence of EPO. It was possession of steroids that Eric and Seldon Ledford were allowed to plead guilty to in the New Jersey court case which let them off the hook for suspected race fixing involving EPO at the Meadowlands. So they were allowed to cop a plea for possessing a drug that could have been used to hide the presence of the EPO's that they were suspected of using to achieve the form reversals that they did. Unreal.
"Maybe a little less," he says. "People are becoming pretty brazen about it. You have people that ask you matter of factly if you want to put a horse on EPO if it isn't performing."
The Racing and Wagering Board began testing for EPO in 2003. According to D'Acunto, when fliers were passed around the paddock, alerting owners and trainers about the testing, the place freaked out.
"One of the leading trainers, I won't say her name [that certainly limits the field-ed.], ran out of the paddock, screaming what the (expletive) am I going to do," D'Acunto says. "There were a lot of people pulling out of races that day because they didn't want to get tested, I would say a dozen."
There's no use kidding ourselves and thinking that if the drug is that effective and hard to detect, it's not being used at thoroughbred tracks as well. Reading this article makes me think that perhaps I am being naive.
I was at the Rangers game on Sunday, and after a good old-fashioned hockey fight, the Head Chef's daughter couldn't believe that the officials were standing around watching rather than trying to break it up. I explained that fighting is against the rules, but it's not prohibited, being as it is penalized by only a five minute penalty. If they really wanted to ban fighting, the NHL would do as is done in college and international hockey, where fighting really is prohibited, and impose severe suspensions. You just don't see fights in those games.
Illegal medication is against the rules in racing, but how seriously can we say the industry is trying to prohibit it? It's obvious from the repeat offenders we see that the current rules are more akin to a trip to the penalty box, where you can relax and watch as your team plays on, than a serious deterrent. Richard Dutrow's flaunting even of those minimal rules, and his subsequent mocking of the authorities by gleefully announcing that he'll spend his latest suspension in Brazil, is akin to a hockey goon mooning the crowd as he exits the ice after a brawl.