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Olympic Dopes Are Drugging Horses

Written by PETA | August 22, 2008
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Horse show

We all know exactly how disastrous racing can be for the horses who are whipped and drugged for entertainment. Well, the scandal doesn’t stop at the Kentucky Derby—it goes all the way up to the Olympics.

That’s right—four horses forced to compete in the Olympics have tested positive, and have subsequently been banned, for the drug capsaicin. Capsaicin is banned because, in the words of one article, “it is derived from the chilli pepper and is used for either medication, as a pain-killer, or for its hypersensitizing properties. In both cases a horse might jump better as a result of its use.” Of course, when you mask pain and overuse a limb, the repercussions can be bone-shatteringly bad.

The four horses banned were competing in team show jumping. Their riders have also been banned from participating in individual events—and if more horses are found to have been drugged, the Olympic medals may be shifted around. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first Olympics where horse-dopers have been stripped of their medals—Germany lost the gold in Athens for the same crime.

People will be shocked to hear of this scandal—and for good reason. If horses are subjected to this kind of mistreatment at the highest level of the “sport,” maybe “sport” isn’t the right place for these beautiful, sensitive animals. Horses should not be drugged up and run into the ground by greedy people for money or for medals, even if it means abusing animals whose athleticism wins the gold. Oh, and did you see any of the close-ups, with the horses’ heads being yanked all the way to their chests and up again, their eyes almost popping out of their heads as they were jerked around? Nice.

Written by Amanda Schinke

Commenting is closed.
  • Heather says:

    While I agree drugging should in no way be tolerated I must clarify some of the comments posted. First of all showjumpers are not likely to “end up at auctionslaughterhouse” if they cannot rise to Grand Prix levels. These horses are easily saleable and could still achieve above 50K to A jumper homes. Why would people settle for a couple hundred dollars when their animals are worth over 50X more? They dont! In fact the highest percentages of slaughtered horses are mostly Quarter Horses primarily barrel racers and flat racers. Of course many TB racehorses end up slaughtered but numbers from this industry are decreasing dramatically due to public spotlight. Closely nearby are Arabians and ‘uncoloured’ stock horses bred for colour. They are the industries culls. In hindsight it is people’s ignorance that sends horses to their deaths. Those backyard breeders who breed just because they have a mare. Horses born with appallable conformation useless to just about any discipline. SENSELESS breeding is the culprit. Secondly the horse does not do “all the work”. Numerous medical studies have shown that horseback riding is among one of the best exercises. It strengthens your core and improves your cardiovascular system and there is ALOT of athleticism to be had when competing at higher levels.

  • rHm says:

    i think it is awful when people drug their horses in competition. but horses like people sometimes have to have medication for pain or other problem i thought peta was all for the animals and just because some drugs arnt natural would you rather them die. Riders work very hard and are as much as athletes as the horses they do not just ride they cross train and you can find the good one working out on the ground to be fit to rider . I have an exrace horse and he is much happier to be ridden then to just be left alone he enjoys it and likes it yes i ride and jump and there are some poor excuses for horse trainers out there but I love my horse and always have him in mind before any ribbon or trophy. I gave gave him a better life and a good home he now is winning childrenadult jumpers and is second in state for his division.

  • Lorna says:

    Ok it is CLEAR that most of you know nothing about horses and showjumping. It was an Irish horse that tested positive for a minuscule substance and their gold medal was taken in Athens. Yes drugging is bad but this substance is LEGAL and widely used in the horse world to treat pain. Horses get aches and pains as do normal human beings. Why should they be denied relief? It is the same as deep heat for humans. I know there are abuses in the equine sporting industry but not at Olympic level. The horses are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and their health would not be jeopardized. There is a process called ”wrapping” where chemicals are applied to the horses legs so when they hit a pole they encounter severe pain and lift their legs higher. This is a disgusting way of teaching a horse to jump. This is abuse. But saying showjumping in general is cruel and torture is WRONG. I’v seen spoiled lil rich kids yanking their poor ponies round courses and beating them badly if they stop or disobey. 10 year olds!! Abusing the poor innocent pony. Education is lacking on how a horse should be treated. If they grow up with the mindset that animals are to be abused they will continue. Saying their heads are pulled into their chests and their eyes are bulging….it’s adrenaline! They are athletes at the top of their game trying their best. Saying the riders just sit there and the horse does all the work….. you obviously have never ridden a horse. Its a partnership you cannot make a horse jump at such high standards if there is no trust between you. A bond is developed. I have been riding for 11 years i’m 16. I have HUGE respect and admiration for these amazing animals. Sorry for the rant but many of you don’t realise that what you are saying is false. Many people like myself love horses and you saying we are torturing them is unfair. Lorna Ireland.

  • jenna rae says:

    i have a horse and have been riding for many years. i’d like to reply to Lola’s response which implied that riding is not even a sport and the horse does all the work. I can only laugh when i hear people say that. I would LOVE to see the people who say that the horse does all the work get on a horse and learn to ride. It demands commitment and most of your time. it also aquires all of the characteristics any other sport would include. Everyone that i know and ride with ride because of their love for horses and would never force them into anything they wouldnt want to do. Maybe next time you should research horseback riding or watch the hard work people put into their horses before you accuse it as not being a sport and being cruel.

  • nicole says:

    competing with horses takes many hours of work and thousands of dollars. people involved in this sport really can’t afford to treat the animals badly because if they do they won’t get the desired result. meanwhile i have never in my life heard of someone selling their champion horse that can no longer compete at a high level to the slaughterhouse. this is a ridiculous statement. when you are looking after these animals and riding them day in and day out they become your friend. the most common place for these animals to go if they are no longer champions is to a child who is learning or sold onto another family. if you’ve never been involved you shouldn’t comment. like i said before there are plenty of much more important issues that peta should be focusing on…

  • Sara says:

    AMEN to that Kelly! I have saved horses from New Holland the auction in the heart of Amish Country Some of the horses I have now were once succesfull racehorses then sent to be TORTURED by the Amish starved and sent off to slaughter like they were garbage. I hate the racing industry only a small percentage actually have a nice life after the track. Most are lame or for other reasons end up in slaughter pens somewhere.

  • Stacie says:

    I have 4 horses and did jumping for years. Horses are athletes by design. For a horse to reach Olympic status the animal has to enjoy what heshe is doing or they’ll simply never reach that level. I know my ‘kids’ and though they are eager to please they are very intelligent creatures and if they don’t enjoy a job at hand you will certainly see it! I would NEVER approve of drugging a horse for any sport and it’s a shame that people out there do such things. As far as jumping being a “sport” it’s actually hard work to ride a jumper if you’ve never done it you couldn’t appreciate that fact. Horses aren’t automotons and you have to know what they’re thinking + give them the right cues + not get in they’re way + being already over the jump in your mind while thinking about the next jump. I’ve personally had broken bones and stitches from nasty falls though I still have a passion for it. You definatly have to be in good shape both physically and mentally!

  • Tammy says:

    The team involved in this doping scandle is the Irish showjumping team which I am apalled to admit because I myself am Irish… It has gotten a lot of publicity over here probably mainly due to the fact it was our team. Firstly the jockey involved hadn’t got permission from his vet to use this rub. Secondly pictures of the rub show that it CLEARLY states that it is banned due to the fact that it can be used to oversensitize the horse therefore making the horse jump higher! Nice thing to do to your supposade pride and joy I don’t think. It also clearly states that while it is banned it shouldnt show up in any tests!!! So cheating… yes I think so! And I agree they should never be allowed participate in any further events… ever! I am just disgusted that it was team Ireland that participated in this animal cruelty!

  • Irene says:

    I have ridden horses for the past 20 years and I have seen all kinds of abuse both in the ring and not. There are disciplines which require the use of shackling the horse’s legs together with stretchy rubber bands making them stand and move in their stalls with heavy chains on their feet tying their heads up at night to achieve a lower head set and injecting the tail head with alcohol in order to prevent the tail from swishing as much during competition. Let’s not forget putting caustic liquids on their skin just above their hooves to make them lift their feet just that much higher. I have honestly seen quite a bit in my years and because of that advocate a natural horsemanship type of riding. I do dressage currently and believe me whoever thinks it’s easy or at lazy encounter with the horse doing all the work I invite you to take a lesson for half an hour. Good luck walking in the morning. We need to focus on educating people in the horse industry about the different kinds of abuse we see and let officials know when we see them. Many times an official who has complaints as to a particular horse andor rider will investigate or disqualify them. I do love horses very much and I can tell when they want to work and when they don’t. We can’t expect the world to change if we don’t inform led by example and educate.

  • brandie r says:

    Should this surprise us? No. Professional athletes inject steroids into their bodies all the time. Then we have the druggies out there who will inject any substance into their blood stream snort it smoke it whatever. So it is not a suprise to me that somene would do this to a horse all in the name of “winning.”

  • Iris says:

    I do hunterjumper no we don’t kill any animals with my rescued leopard appaloosa though we don’t jump nearly as high as in the Olympics. He jumps 2′ 3″ max which he can usually just step over from a standstill. He’s a little older and little stubborn and he doesn’t get as much exercise as he needs because very few people other than me are willing to ride him. So he’s also a little on the chubby side but when we jump he gladly goes over with his ears perked. Hunterjumper is sort of like showjumping but the horses and riders are based on form rather than speed and perfection. It’s a lot safer than speeding around the ring. Maybe the Olympics would be better for the horses if they used that method and used lower jumps.

  • Ana says:

    Horses belong in verdant fields galloping with their own species. I like sports which are about human talent swimming or running for example. Ugh…the poor horses. Hate the bit.

  • kelly says:

    httpdealwithitdaily.blogspot.com200805nodayoffrunningfortheirlives.html It’s not just racing horses that get sent to slaughter to get tortured like this. It is show horses too! Notice the vet in the above article enabling the abusers. That is because her vet practice makes its money from Amish dairy people so they just enable the torture for their “clients” so they can keep on making their money. This is why the AVMA supports the horse torture slaughter industry. The vets that fill their pockets with money from the farming industry will support whatever those sleazeballs do. And most of the leadership at AVMA is farming industry puppets.

  • Rom says:

    This is a pointless post. Why aren’t the names of the horses the riders the teams etc identified. If this is real news then please do a little more work to bring the whole story to us. All you have accomplished is to bring a sensationalsounding headline to this site when you could have been targeting the abusers by naming names.

  • nicole says:

    i know that there are a few people in the sport that don’t care about the horse but in this level of competition you have to treat that animal like it is the centre of your world… these people genuinely love these creatures and i believe that the sport may be a little misunderstood… capsaicin is a rub on cream that is used in hospitals every day to treat arthritis! it is not doping. i usually agree with most of petas points by while the olympics are on why are we focusing on animals that have loving owners the best vetrerinary care shelter and food while not making enough noise about the fur farms… come on peta you can do better than this

  • Loriel says:

    Their ears are up because they are highly alert while being forced to jump these huge jumps in record time. Do not confuse the horse being highly focused as they do “their job” with enjoyment. Jumping is completely unnatural to a horse and you cannot put it in the same league as “riding the trails” around your property. I know I show jumped for years. The jumps get bigger and more complicated and when it is realized that a horse does not have what it takes to compete in these high stakes games it 9 times out of 10 heads straight to auction and then to slaughter. Goodbye “pampered” treatment. Hello to “hell.” Everyone loves a winner a loser just reminds them of the money they have lost upon purchasing this horse. They live “pampered” lives flying from place to place and only leaving their stalls to be worked or groomed. I used to love it I am guilty as charged. But I am not naive anymore. Neither should you be.

  • Tom D. says:

    don’t understand how the riding are considered “athletes” when the horses are doing all the work There’s no way you can say this if you ever rode a horse. I admit I once thought riding a horse was like sitting in a LazyBoy in front of the TV. Not true. All that a human can do with a horse is be a guide or coach The horse will do what he knows how to do. I’m not a fan of horse racing but if you watch a race closely you will learn something. Watch the jockey. Heshe stands in the stirrups in a squat. Hisher butt stays at the same elevation but their legs are pumping up an down in sync with the horse. This is not easy. In fact it’s exhausting. I suspect that after two minutes at the cantor you will be unable to stand unaided. Tom D. Atlanta

  • Lorraine says:

    This is in response to the comment asking why the “horse does all the work?” in these events. To the nonriding person one will be surprised that a rider has to be extremely athletic to compete at the Olympic level. The good news is that to the nonriding public is that the videos show the horse doing all the work. That indeed is a sign of a great rider you cannot see the myriad of hand arm shoulder leg knee and foot movements the rider makes to encourage the horse to perform a specific task. Much like ballet the ballerinas make things look very very easy A good rider appears invisible upon his or her steed. As a horsewoman all my life my lovely horses and I competed in dressage a sport where the rider should look effortless while the horse seems to be performing on its own. Horses are also being used to rehabilitate severely handicapped people afflicted with everything from Cerebral Palsy to Autism. With the help of the wonderful horses and volunteers these patients improve dramatically just by riding. Muscles strengthen throughout the body especially the core ones. I adore the horse and rider combination a true team effort and am ashamed and aghast at the drugging at the Olympics. I think the penalty for drugging should be to disqualify the rider from EVER participating in ANY event ANYWHERE in the world ever again. A lifetime ban would suit many of us. I hope someone pushes this idea it will end doping.

  • SASHA says:


  • erika says:

    i’m not saying that i suport this industry but the days of drugging horses are not as nearly as often as they used to be. my horse jumps with his head to his chest. i think that it helps him balance. but he also jumps a little pole that i sometimes put on the ground like that. A lot of the horses that are used for these competitions are treated like gold. unfortunaley a lot of the horses that do not make it onto this scene do go to the slaughterhouse. and why are the riders considered althetes and the horses considered equipment when the horses are the ones doing all the work? if you look closely at a horse’s face even when they are working you can see whether they are happy or not. my horse loves to work. he loves the change in his routine. everytime i approach with my helmet his eyes light up and he gets all perky and spirited. you can see that he loves it.

  • sundance says:

    I should think PETA could find an example of neglect and mistreatment more compeling than the horses at the Olympics. For example the thousands of wild horses that our government has gathered from public lands and warehoused in corrals. These horses are unwanted by the public and best suited for the open spaces that they historically inhabit. To appease ranchers they have been removed from rangeland so that it can be used for beef production. If PETA wants to help the horses in greatest need they should try and help these.

  • kelly says:

    The entire horse industry is far dirtier than anyone realizes. These are just the ones that got caught! There are more doing worse things. Not to mention that many of these horses are used up like trash then sent to the Amish and other torturer horse slaughtering industry to be abused before they kill them terribly. With VETERINARIANS standing there watching the abuse and torture and profiting from it. The horse industry also overbreeds and dumps the “excess” into the slaughter trade.

  • Michelle says:

    OK I know it is horrible that they would drug the horses just like how it is horrible people use drugs to preform better. But I have witnessed first hand a lot of the horses used by members of the US team and they really enjoy what they are doing. If you notice most of the horses ears are up and perky their tales raised and LOVE running with their rider. I know my horse loves going through courses as well as riding the trails around my house. I would never dream of making my horse do anything he did not want to do unless it was for his own safety. Just know that there are riders that love their horses more than anything and do anything for their companions.

  • Lola says:

    Personally I don’t understand how the riding are considered “athletes” when the horses are doing all the work. Why are these events even in the Olympics?