Scandals over drug abuse in sports have been prevalent in recent times.  Cheating with performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) has, for example, brought down some of the best home-run sluggers in Major League Baseball, famous Ultimate Fighting Championship warriors, world-class cyclers, and Olympic track and field competitors.

In North America horse racing, the second-place finisher in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Sprint was disqualified over a failed steroid test, provoking calls for change, particularly with respect to out-of-competition testing.

People who truly care about horse racing are strongly in favor of improved drug-testing policies and procedures that will enhance the sport’s integrity, especially among bettors.  But expectations about the outcomes should be optimistic yet tempered with a healthy dose of realism. There is no panacea and ridding a sport of drug abuse is an elusive moving target.

Consider what George Karl, who coached six National Basketball Association teams during his career and has written a book about his experiences–titled “Furious George:  My Forty Years Surviving Divas, Clueless GMs, and Poor Shot Selection”–has to say about drug abuse in the NBA:

“We’ve got a more thorough drug-testing program than the NFL or MLB, which we always brag about.  But we’ve still got a drug issue, though a different one than thirty years ago.  And this one bothers me more than the dumbasses who got in trouble with recreational drugs.

I’m talking about performance-enhancing drugs—like steroids, human growth hormone, and so on.  It’s obvious some of our players are doping.  How are some guys getting older—yet thinner and fitter?  How are they recovering from injuries so fast?  Why the hell are they going to Germany in the off-season?  I doubt it’s for the sauerkraut.

More likely it’s for the newest, hard-to-detect blood boosters and PEDs they have in Europe.  Unfortunately, drug testing always seems to be a couple steps behind drug hiding.  Lance Armstrong never failed a drug test.  I think we want the best athletes to succeed, not the biggest, richest cheaters employing the best scientists.  But I don’t know what to do about it.”

As in the NBA, it is a given that cheaters in horse racing will always be searching for creative ways and new PEDs to thwart drug testing.  This, of course, should be an incentive for state-of-the-art in-competition testing and out-of-competition testing.  Alas, the money required to do so is not always available to state horse racing commissions.  Thus George Karl’s admission that “I don’t know what to do about [drug cheating in the NBA]” also, to a large extent, plagues horse racing officials.

Copyright © 2016 Horse Racing Business


  1. Blue Larkspur says

    It is OBVIOUS who is cheating in racing – the 20% trainer (name edited out) of a ten MILLION dollar net worth …

  2. Your series of posts on drugs in racing are the best I’ve seen published anywhere. You put your finger on the issues and called out the problems with enforcers and enforcement. Until racing authorities get serious and walk the talk drugs will continue to tarnish the sport.

  3. Yes, there is widespread cheating in horse racing. If each state would require EVERY DRUG (administered to any horse, whether stabled at the track or elsewhere, while in or out of competition) including dosage, date of delivery, etc. to be reported to the State Commission, stewards, etc., we would soon see who is cheating by checking the results to the drug delivery records. The crooks get around it now because they know which dosage strengths and delivery times they can play with so when the do get post race testing they past the test. This is ludicrous.