- The investigation into the possible use of the blood doping agent Epogen and cobra snake venom at Saratoga Harness is the latest such potential scandal to hit horse racing, and, if proven, the latest indication that cheaters are able to stay a step ahead of the game. While there has been progress in testing for Epogen, there is no effective test for the snake venom, which can be used to numb sore or injured joints and improve a horse's performance on the track. [Glens Falls Post Star]
"There is not a test for it anywhere in the world," [the Equine Drug Testing Program at Cornell University's director George] Maylin said. "So, in that regard, it is used without fear of detection." [Albany Times Union]A grand jury investigation is under way, but once the legal authorities take over, circumstantial evidence and common sense no longer apply, so there better be some hard evidence. We saw this in the recent plea bargains in which Eric and Seldon Ledford were able to cop deals to possession of steroids, despite the discovery of what was called "substantial" amounts of the blood doping agent Aranesp, as well as syringes and hypodermic needles. Not to mention the drastic form reversals. The New Jersey Racing Commission saw fit to suspend Ledford for 10 1/2 years, but now, his attorney expects him to be back in a couple of months!
- Epogen and other blood doping agents can cause more than just form reversals.
According to the Web site www.epogen.com., the drug may increase the risk of blood clots in veins and lungs.Coincidence or not, two dead horses had been found in the Ledford's Illinois barn around the time of the investigation, in addition to a recently claimed trotter at the Meadowlands.
"Over a period of time, the blood gets very thick, so it causes damage to the lungs," said Dr. Bill Barnes of Saratoga Equine Veterinary Hospital. "The use of these substances can cause catastrophic breakdowns."
When horses are taken off the drug, their bodies may stop producing red blood cells, causing severe anemia and even death. [Saratogian]