Written by Jeff Mackey
In a huge victory for horses—one that's sure to get even
bigger as its effects are felt throughout the racing industry—the Kentucky
Horse Racing Commission has approved
a plan to phase out the use of the race-day medication furosemide, also known as Lasix
and Salix, in races in the bluegrass state, following pressure from PETA, The Jockey Club, and other
progressive forces within the industry to ban
this dangerous practice.
tasweertaker|cc by 2.0
As PETA Vice President Kathy Guillermo explained when she addressed the commission in November, the prevalence of catastrophic breakdowns in horses has sparked a
backlash against risky procedures such as the use of powerful
Lasix, a powerful diuretic, not only causes horses to lose about
2 percent of their body weight in water (resulting in a weight advantage of
roughly 20 pounds) but also increases urine production, which can mask the
presence of other—often illegal—drugs by "flushing out" a horse's
system. This enables unscrupulous trainers and veterinarians to run injured
horses when they should be recovering by giving them a variety of drugs to mask
pain and control inflammation, leading to breakdowns.
Most countries ban the use of Lasix on race days because of
its performance-enhancing qualities, yet more than 90 percent of thoroughbreds
in the U.S. are given the drug just hours before they race. But thanks to the
efforts of PETA and other advocates for horses, the tide is turning.
With this latest victory, Lasix will be banned in 2014 for
all 2-year-old graded and listed stakes races in Kentucky. Starting in 2015,
Lasix will be banned in all 3-year-old graded and listed stakes races, which
means that the Kentucky Derby will be Lasix-free in 2015! The next year, Lasix
will be prohibited from all graded and listed stakes races regardless of age.
Join PETA in celebrating this important victory by keeping
the momentum going—please contact your members of Congress and ask them to
support the Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act, which will ban the use of
performance-enhancing drugs and increase drug testing in all races.
Folks watching The Belmont Stakes this weekend got a shocking
reality check after the race, in the winner's circle as the trophy was being presented when a PETA representative
whipped out a sign demanding a ban on dopers in horseracing.
Readers of The PETA Files already know that Doug O'Neill, the
trainer of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another, who scratched at the last minute, has a shameful record of illegally drugging horses, but nine out of the 10 trainers of the remaining
contenders have violated drug regulations, too, including Michael Matz, the trainer of Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags.
It's time for racing
fans to face up to the seamy practices that they're enabling—and how they're harming horses in the process. Of course, the problem goes far beyond The Belmont Stakes: Only
two of the top 20 trainers in the U.S. last year had never been cited for a
What You Can Do
Horse racing's dirty secret is out, and it's time for the
dopers to get the boot. Please contact your members of Congress and ask them to support the Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act of 2011, which would
prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs and expand drug-testing requirements
at all races.
Update: PETA has learned that the New York State Racing and
Wagering Board has just announced a plan that it had
previously formulated similar to what PETA proposed this morning, which will
help ensure the safety of horses during the Belmont Stakes. PETA congratulates
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the board for taking these
precautions. We urge the board to add the following critical measure: While
currently New York Racing Association (NYRA) veterinarians are required for the
administration of Lasix, we urge the board to require that only NYRA veterinarians supply and administer any medication,
supplements, and vitamins as well as any other substances given to horses during the entire
stakes barn-detention period in order to guarantee the safety of the
I'll Have Another, the thoroughbred who recently won both
the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, would seem to be in an exalted position
as the Belmont Stakes approaches—but even horses at the top of the racing world
are at constant risk. I'll Have Another's trainer, Doug O'Neill, has been in
hot water for drugging violations for more than a decade, and there's no reason
to trust him now. That's why PETA is asking New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to take
special measures to see that I'll Have Another is protected in the days leading
up to the final Triple Crown race on June 9.
O'Neill has been cited more than a dozen times for violating numerous drug rules in multiple states, culminating in his suspension last week by the California Horse Racing Board. According to a recent New
York Times report, O'Neill's horses also break down or show signs of injury at more than twice the national rate.
Gov. Cuomo cares about thoroughbreds—he recently took control of horse racing in his state, suspending the badly managed New York Racing Association and
forming a government board charged with reforming drug use and protecting the
health and safety of horses and jockeys. So PETA is urging Gov. Cuomo to follow
through on this goal by putting I'll Have Another on round-the-clock
surveillance in the five days before the Belmont to make sure that he won't be
doped up on any of the dangerous substances that O'Neill has used in the past.
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If the governor acts, it will be another in a series of significant measures that PETA has helped put in place for horses used in racing, so let's keep the
momentum going—speak up for horses today!
Written by Michelle Kretzer
the heels of trainer Doug
O'Neill's win at the Kentucky
Derby with I'll Have Another, The New
York Times reported that in the past 14 years, O'Neill has had nearly that
many violations for giving horses illegal performance-enhancing drugs. That O'Neill could be forcing
horses to run when they shouldn't may account for the fact that the horses he
trains sustain breakdowns or injuries more than twice as often, on average, as
other thoroughbreds. Yet even with multiple drug violations, O'Neill is still sought
after. Little oversight and lenient penalties make it too easy for him and
other trainers to drug horses and get away with it.
banamine|cc by 2.0The U.S. is the only country that still allows routine and extensive use of drugs in horse racing, despite the overwhelming evidence that drugs are deadly for horses.
Long-Standing History of Drug Abuse
fact, of the top 20 U.S. trainers in 2011, only two
were never cited for a drug violation, according to Racing Commissioners
trainer Todd Pletcher, who trained 2010 Kentucky
Derby winner Super Saver, has been suspended several times for drug charges, fellow
top trainer D. Wayne Lukas was caught running horses with cocaine in their systems, and
Darrel Delahoussaye and Patrick Biancone have both had numerous drug violations, including citations
for using snake venom. Rick Dutrow Jr., who trained 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown, racked
up so many drug violations that he was banned from all New York racetracks for
What You Can Do
Last year, after a congressional
hearing on the use of drugs
in horseracing for which PETA supplied information, the Interstate Horseracing Improvement
Act of 2011 was introduced, which
would ban the use of performance-enhancing drugs and require that the winner and
one other randomly chosen horse be tested for drugs at all races.
take a moment to ask your representatives to vote in favor of this much-needed
Written by PETA
In a landmark move for thoroughbreds' safety, the American Graded Stakes Committee announced that it is banning performance-enhancing drugs for 2-year-olds on race days.
Graded stakes races are significant for two reasons: They offer large purses, and their results are used in determining which horses will qualify to run in the Kentucky Derby. Since most owners and trainers want to improve a horse's speed in these top tier races more than any others, banning drugs in the graded stakes is a huge step toward getting drugs out of racing altogether.
The committee's decision comes on the heels of a similar ban by the Breeders' Cup World Championship, which announced three weeks ago that drugs would be prohibited during the multiple-race event in 2013 and for 2-year-olds beginning next year at the 2012 Breeders' Cup.
The drug bans focus on Lasix, a diuretic that is already banned in most countries. Lasix enables trainers and jockeys to force horses to run harder and more often than they should by reducing bleeding in the horses' lungs and nose, and it can also mask the use of painkillers, which can lead to catastrophic breakdowns when horses run while injured.
A bill has been introduced in Congress that would ban race-day performance-enhancing drugs from all thoroughbred races. You can help by urging your congressional representatives to support H.R. 1733, introduced by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) and S. 886, introduced by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.).
Written by Michelle Sherrow
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