Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Snake Venom, Not Oil

As if horse racing isn't suffering from enough image problems stemming from rampant drug use within the industry, allegations plague another top international trainer. This time the illegal substance is cobra venom, yes, cobra venom. Investigators conducting a barn search of Patrick Biancone discovered a bottle labeled "toxic" which later proved to indeed be cobra venom.

A wonderfully frank and informative article by Andrew Beyer explains this blight on the racing industry regarding drug use among the top echelon trainers. As I've mentioned before, six of the top ten trainers in horse racing have served suspensions due to various drug infractions within the past year.

The venom blocks the nerves that transmit pain sensation to the horse's brain. With pain being the body's warning system to impede further assault on an existing injury, the system is short-circuited and the horse runs onward with a potential disaster in the making. Not only is the horse in peril, so are the riders.

I've stated that drug use in racing is an extremely complex issue. There are no easy answers for this subject. In this case I'm specifically speaking of race day use, not therapeutic. We're dealing here with a totally illegal drug, not an overage on an allowable substance. Racing must step up and take a resolute stand on a disgusting, growing problem.

If baseball and other major professional sports can take a no-nonsense, zero tolerance approach to illegal drug use by it's players, why can't horse racing? It glaringly obvious that American horses can't compete well when traveling to foreign countries with strict anti-drug use regulations.

These are living, breathing animals. This callous manipulation of the "rules of racing" at the deadly price of not only the lives and well-being of these magnificent animals, but also the jockeys who are subjected to terrible risk as well.

When the "cheaters" are eliminated - and let me suggest that the blame doesn't fall exclusively on the trainers - only the truly sound, fit and talented athletes will prevail. Consider the roles played by the veterinarians AND owners in this shameless practice. How did Biancone obtain the cobra venom? This is supposed to be a strictly controlled substance available only for research purposes.

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