Good thing that there was no non-disciplinary and anonymous survey testing of horses for steroids in 2003. Who knows how many positives could be surfacing now. If it was ever reported that any of these horses were on steroids, would it diminish their accomplishments? Albany Times-Union blogger Mark McGuire wrote in his 2nd and Short blog:
With so many of the era’s stars now at least linked to steroid use, it’s going to be difficult to contextualize these guys among the all-time greats.He's talking of course about baseball, but don't you think it could apply to racing if old samples were found?
The news on Alex Rodriguez was all over the front pages on Sunday; I'm ever-amazed by the obsession over the whole subject of steroids in baseball by the press and law enforcement alike. I wonder if fans and the public-at-large would care that much if not prodded to do so. Our buddy William C. Rhoden had a thoughtful column on the matter the other day.
The publicity, and I don't think it's a stretch to describe it instead as hysteria, about A-Rod, or A-Roid, as he will now forever be known, is further illustration of why racing had no choice but to move to ban the drugs, even as there are presumably more pressing drug problems. Steroids have been reported to benefit a horse in its training, helping to maintain a good appetite and coat color, rather than to juice a horse for a particular race. They're also easily tested for. This all as opposed to blood doping agents which directly enhance an athlete's stamina and which need to be tested out-of-competition. However, given the current atmosphere, steroids had to be the priority, and had to go right away.
It seems funny that Lasix, which might just be the most enhancing-performance drug of all, is such an accepted part of American racing culture at this point that we don't even hear much discussion of it at all. It's been that way, really, ever since New York leveled the playing field by legalizing its use. Imagine how many horses we'd have trouble contextualizing if Lasix ever became half as stigmatized as steroids are.
I read a very interesting comment in Dave Litfin's column in the Form on Saturday, in which he discussed what he perceives to be the death of the inner track speed bias (which I always considered to be overrated).
So, what's going on? There have been significant changes this winter: a) a new track superintendent; b) the elimination of mud calks; and c) more stringent guidelines for the use of steroids. Any or all of those factors might contribute to explaining the seismic shift in how the inner track has played; but whatever the synergy, this has not been the inner track speed handicappers have known and loved for the last three decades. [DRF Plus (sub. only)]While a) and b) are expected explanations, I was surprised to read Litfin speculate about steroids in this particular context; that's not something I've read in the past. However, I subsequently found this quote from trainer Christophe Clement in the Saratogian last month.
“Many trainers would give their horses steroids as a matter of course and then build them up going into a big race. In a country where the racing programme is dominated by speed these training methods have had a great effect on the results and the type of horses who were winning. From next year in most states, racing is going to be different.”Of course, it has to be far too early in the game to reach any conclusions about the new rules as of yet. Another thing we've been seeing a lot of recently is horses breaking down - rashes of fatalities at Santa Anita, Fair Grounds, and Turfway, and a few at Aqueduct too - on tracks synthetic and real. If we can speculate about a change in the game as profound as Clement and Litfin do, is it unfair or unreasonable to suggest that the same change may be contributing to the injuries too? Just thought I'd ask.