This past weekend, media reported that the Pennsylvania Racing Commission had stopped several cars entering PARX racetrack in Philadelphia and discovered syringes and an electrical device.  Déjà vu: this is eerily similar to an incident at PARX in 2021 that resulted in a two-year suspension of a trainer. Earlier in the week, a harness racing trainer was sentenced to federal prison for 30 months for doping horses.

Out of curiosity, I ran a Google internet search for the phrase “cheating in sports.”  A flood of results appeared. A sampling:

  • “The Pros and Cons of Cheating in Sports
  • The 40 Worst Cheaters in Sports History
  • 9 Doping Scandals That Changed Sports
  • The 10 Greatest Sports Cheaters of All Time
  • The Most Infamous Professional Sports Cheating Scandals
  • Before the Astros, 7 Other Cheating Scandals That Rocked the Professional Sports World”

The International Review of Psychiatry in 2016 published “Cheating and Sports: History, Diagnosis, and Treatment.”  I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to figure out how to rehabilitate cheaters.  The concern here is that horse racing regulators must rigorously monitor for cheating with state-of the-art testing and appropriately sanction offenders, especially repeat offenders. No matter whether cheating is revealed in the Kentucky Derby or in a claiming race at a nondescript racetrack, horse racing’s image is tarnished.

Besides turning off bettors, doping of a racehorse is animal abuse. Horse racing is unique among sports in that medicating the athlete is done without the consent of the athlete.

While researching material for this post, I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Behind a Chess Scandal: How Would a Player Cheat And Get Away With It?”  19-year-old American grandmaster Hans Moke Niemann is suspected of defeating Magnus Carlsen, the world champion chess player, twice, by cheating through high-tech chicanery. (Previously, during the pandemic in November 2020, detected widespread cheating going on in online tournaments and closed 18,000 accounts, including those of average players as well as grandmasters.)

Bettors and fans of horse racing have (unfortunately) become inured to reports of cheating, but pervasive cheating scandalizing the genteel game of chess?  Really?  Chess and serious horse-race handicapping are intellectual pursuits, but chess does not depend on the patronage of bettors for its viability.

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