Horse Racing’s Tough Year Keeps Getting Tougher

Horse homeowners, trainers and racetrack executives are imagined to handle their athletes, equine and human. When they don’t, each are in danger. As we noticed earlier this yr, 30 horses needed to be euthanized after sustaining devastating accidents at Santa Anita Park in Southern California. Their riders, happily, weren’t significantly injured.

And regulatory companies are supposed to guard the general public, within the case of horse racing by “ensuring the integrity, viability and safety” of the business, in line with the California Horse Racing Board’s mission assertion.

It is a tough job that requires a sure steadfastness within the face of public stress. Sometimes that can is there, generally not.

On the primary Saturday in May at Churchill Downs, three Kentucky racing officers confronted a take a look at of their cost.

In a written statement, the board’s executive director, Rick Baedeker, said that during its investigation, scientists retested samples from other horses at Santa Anita and found trace amounts of the drug in a handful of samples — not enough to prompt a positive result, but enough to allow the board to seriously consider that Justify and the other horses might have eaten some contaminated feed. He said that the trainers of those horses were never notified that there might be a problem.

With the news media demanding answers, Dr. Rick Arthur, the California board’s equine medical director, went to a racing industry publication, The Blood-Horse, to explain why his science had led him and the board to look past the failed test.

He said the presence of an additional chemical in Justify’s biological sample suggested that the scopolamine had to have come from the ingestion of jimson weed rather than a pharmaceutical, and he said many experts have decided scopolamine doesn’t really help anyway. In other words, just trust them.

There is this, though: The quantity of the drug found in Justify suggested that it was not the result of feed or bedding contamination and that it was intended to enhance performance, according to Dr. Rick Sams, who ran the drug lab for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission from 2011 to 2018. Dr. Sams said scopolamine can have performance-enhancing benefits. Dr. Arthur did not explain why there might have been so much more scopolamine in Justify than in the other horses.

No matter which authority one trusts, there is an interesting detail about how this situation was handled. Human athletes who fail drug tests are responsible for whatever substances are found in their systems, regardless of how they got there, because whether or not the athletes intended to, they were competing with an advantage. They also are responsible for attempting to clear their names once they test positive.

In Justify’s case, he was found to have an illegal substance in his system, and then the people who administered the test took it upon themselves to spend four months trying to clear Justify of wrongdoing.

The handling of the case prompts a question for some: What else have California officials made disappear and for whom?

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