Everyone else is doing it, why not equines?

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Muscle mass and strength and endurance, oh my! Steroids seem to pop up in numerous sports, even those that are highly unexpected; sports such as horse racing. Arguments that have faced steroids are nothing new to American culture. However, since the “juiced” Big Brown took title of the Run for the Roses during the 2008 Kentucky Derby, arguments have escalated. During his first race without the drug on June 8th, 2008, Big Brown found himself in lagging behind his competitors and eventually landed himself in dead last. Have thoroughbred breeders lost their touch in raising exceptional athletes such as Secretariat and Man O’War, so much that performance enhancing drugs are needed? Or have they simply been attempting to catch up with the growing trends of America?


Daniel Engber points out in his article, “Win, Place, and Dope” that the weaker version of today’s racing heroes may need performance-enhancing drugs in order to make it through their racing careers. Rick Arthur from the California Horse Racing Board states “elminating them could very well have a favorable long-term impact on the longevity of horses’ racing careers”. What Arthur fails to acknowledge is the fact that thoroughbreds are now bred to have freakishly broad shoulders with their mismatched, spindly legs. Not only are breeders mass-producing weaker horses, but racing them as two and three years olds does nothing good for the body. Without the use of drugs like Winstrol, the number of deaths out on the track could skyrocket in a matter of months. There are many questions revolving around the injuries and deaths of Barbaro and Eight Belles: could drugs have saved them or were their injuries the result of being pushed too hard while on anabolic steroids?


While the cons outweight the pros of steroid use on humans, the same cannot be said for equestrians. Congress attempts to label horse juicing as fraud and animal cruetly while seldomly delving deeper into the facts of it. Every trainer has access to performance enhancing drugs and seeing as only 28 of the 38 racing states ban them, there’s no reason not to engage in their use. Even states with strict juicing rules require that the drug be absent only on the day of the race – not days or months prior. If everyone has access to drugs, then who’s to say that using them is cheating?


As animal rights activists and supposed concerned congress members evaluate the dangers of steroids in horse racing, they seem too preoccupied to notice the many other dangers that racing provides for its athletes. For instance, whipping a horse numerous times during a race to make it go faster is presumably humane as is having a colt with weak legs undergo surgery to fix them. Apparently furosemide, a drug known for causing dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, is even more humane than performance enhancing drugs.


The spotlight of drug use in racing finds its focus upon those who have won their races. Some trainers and thoroughbred owners argue that they have to keep up with trends if they have hopes of making a name for themselves in the industry. However, it is highly doubtful that celebrity horses are going to influence the actions of others. The autopsy of Eight Belles claimed that she was drug-free at the time of her death, meaning she most likely succeeded at racing by pure talent. The idea that performance enhancing drugs influence racing statistics is a completely bogus one.


There is no proper research to justify that equestrian steroids are equally as harmful as the counterpart human ones are. Without the use of perfromance enhancing drugs in racing, many horses won’t live to see their retirement.





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