CATCHING AND PENALIZING DRUG OFFENDERS YEARS LATER

Recently, Steve Byk, on his SiriusXM show “At the Races” had a thought-provoking discussion with Blood-Horse writer Steve Haskin pertaining to the difficulty of regulators staying ahead of unscrupulous horse trainers who administer performance-enhancing drugs to their animals.  Haskin pointed out that new and exotic PEDS can go undetected by existing tests administered by the laboratories hired by state racing commissions.  He also said that this is not a recent phenomenon, but rather, has been true throughout horse racing history.

Byk and Haskin were in agreement that if laboratories were to freeze post-race samples taken from racehorses (and widely publicize it) that preservation would be a deterrent to trainers thinking about utilizing a new PED that labs currently don’t test for.  While a test might not exist today to detect a certain PED, it may exist in the future and the frozen samples could be tested accordingly.

The International Olympic Committee in January 2017 provided a prime example of such delayed detection and sanctions via results from its renewed anti-doping tests.  The IOC retested urine samples from the 2008 Olympics and discovered that sprinter Nesta Carter helped Jamaica win the 4 x 100 relay while on the prohibited substance methylhexaneamine.  As a result, approaching nine years after the fact, the IOC disqualified all members of the Jamaican relay team and stripped them of their gold medals.

Byk and Haskin are correct that scientific advancements can be and are used to retroactively administer justice.  Notably, DNA innovations have served to exonerate convicts on death row for crimes committed years before the science of DNA was perfected.  Conversely, people have been convicted for crimes from years ago, using modern DNA techniques.

I don’t know whether State Racing Commissions could afford the costs of storing and testing a massive number of samples from so many past races.  Even if they could, imagine a scenario in which improved laboratory tests found that a winner of the Kentucky Derby or Breeders’ Cup Classic from 15 or 20 years ago ran on a PED that was undetectable with the drug-testing techniques of the time.  I suspect a statute of limitations provision would come into play.  If not, some fortunate attorneys would surely get a lot of business litigating the case.

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