Let's Get Specific

By Kent H. Stirling -- This game is "not being conducted on a level playing field, and hasn't been for years."..."I've also seen trainers practically disappear off the face of the earth after the test for clenbuterol was developed."..."Our sport is policed by a bunch of buffoons."

Gary C. Young, who offered these comments in the "Final Turn" of Jan. 6 (page 146), is long and loud on complaints and also long and loud on insults. He is, unfortunately, extremely short on specifics. He names no trainers, he names no drugs, he provides absolutely no specifics whatsoever, almost certainly because he cannot.

If this gentleman has specifics, he should first provide them to the regulatory authorities that are entrusted with making the playing field level. These individuals have the authority to order specific tests, for specific drugs, on specific people. In my experience, if you bring these people valid information, they will act.

If he knows specific drugs that are being abused, he should identify them by name, appropriate dose, and method and time of administration. The technical capability is there to prevent the use of the vast majority of pharmaceuticals, if they are identified as problems.

Undefined beliefs, no matter how firmly held, that certain people are getting away with unnamed things, are very difficult for anybody to do anything about.

Just like columnist Stan Bergstein, who is fond of claiming that certain unnamed people are using "rocket fuel," he is not making a specific charge. All he is doing is communicating his complete ignorance of what he believes is being used, presumably because he cannot identify these famous unknown substances, and because his personal unhappiness is engendered by this belief.

I am not so naïve as to think there are no drugs or medications being used improperly by a small number of trainers and veterinarians, but these drugs are a far cry from the Class 1 drugs (rocket fuel) of the past such as Fentanyl and Etorphine (elephant juice), which caused so many problems 20 years ago. There presently is another Class 3 medication, Guanabenz (the same class as clenbuterol), which apparently is being used by some unscrupulous trainers and veterinarians. The test to detect it will soon be in racing laboratories. There will then be some "positives" called and some licenses suspended (and rightfully so), and racing regulation will take another step forward.

As for those trainers who disappeared "off the face of the earth after the test for clenbuterol was developed," several years ago, the only trainer openly accused in the press of owing his success to clenbuterol that I am aware of was a New Jersey/Florida based trainer whom, according to the Daily Racing Form, just had a 28% win strike rate for 2000. Possibly Mr. Young is not familiar with the term "good horsemanship."

As well as insulting racing and his colleagues, he also identifies as "buffoons" the individuals performing the drug testing in California. He is waiting for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's super-testing to arrive, and level the playing field.

If this gentleman had done his homework, he would know that half of the NTRA super-testing is done by the laboratory that has been testing California samples for the last six months. If this testing has failed to level the playing field, failed to identify "rocket fuel," failed to call the "juice" and do all the things he believes must be done to make racing a game to his liking, then this gentleman is in trouble, since the NTRA super-testing is unlikely to be substantially better than current California testing.

It is also interesting, and no accident, that two of the loudest complainers about "undetectable drugs" are professional horseplayers, Mr. Andy Beyer and now Mr. Young.

Horse racing is unpredictable--indeed it would not exist if it were anything other than unpredictable. Horseplayers are people who believe they are smart enough to consistently beat the most unpredictable game on earth. When they eventually fail, and fail they will, they look for something to blame, something plausible, something nebulous, something very much on people's minds. What this publication seemingly has printed is this horseplayer's confession of failure, and his whining assignment of blame.