Update: Great news! The New York State Gaming Commission has finalized and adopted sweeping anti-doping and medical rules (see the full details below) proposed after PETA’s shocking investigation of horse trainer Steve Asmussen, who routinely drugged injured Thoroughbreds in order to mask their pain and make them run faster.
Now, any substance banned in human competition by the World Anti-Doping Agency also is banned by horse-racing regulators in New York, unless it’s being used for valid medical reasons under veterinary supervision.
Update posted on January 24, 2017:
After confirming that PETA’s damning investigation of racehorse trainer Steve Asmussen revealed suffering among Thoroughbreds, New York regulators have introduced real protection for horses who are abused in the racing industry. On January 23, the New York State Gaming Commission formally proposed new drug and medical rules.
The new rules would require trainers to keep records of serious exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhages as well as cases of visible bleeding from a horse’s nose. The Commission will track these instances and put limitations on when and if a horse can race afterward.
Other rules will mandate that blood tests can be taken at any time or place, even when the horse is not on the track or scheduled to race, to detect any use of illegal substances or misused medications. In addition, medications given to horses must be prescribed by a veterinarian, recorded, and only given when medically necessary.
These rules were developed when state regulators confirmed PETA’s allegations that medications, such as powerful thyroid hormones, were given to horses who had no medical needs for them and that one of Asmussen’s veterinarians provided him with pre-signed forms that he could fill in for horses who supposedly suffered from bleeding in their lungs. Such bleeding is the result of overexertion.
There’s still too much cruelty in the horse-racing industry, but New York regulators have taken important steps toward eliminating some of it.
Update posted on November 23, 2015:
After a PETA investigation exposed that leading Thoroughbred horse trainer Steve Asmussen drugged sore, injured horses in order to mask pain and make them run faster, the New York State Gaming Commission has fined Asmussen $10,000 and proposed sweeping new regulations to protect horses.
The commission confirmed PETA’s findings that drugs were used without medical necessity and that Asmussen gave horses thyroxine, a prescription drug intended to treat thyroid disorders—not because the horses suffered from thyroid problems but to speed up their metabolism in an attempt to make them run faster. The commission also found that forms that allow for the administration of the drug Lasix were improperly used.
The commission’s proposed rules include prohibiting the use of drugs except when they’re needed for actual medical purposes, tightly controlling the use of thyroid medications, requiring trainers to log every drug they dispense, and more.
Asmussen is still under investigation by New York state and federal authorities for labor violations that PETA exposed, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s lawsuit against Asmussen is ongoing.
PETA supports the New York State Gaming Commission’s actions and is hopeful that they will mean fewer catastrophic injuries and deaths for horses at racetracks in New York.
What You Can Do
Please urge your senators and representatives to help protect horses used for racing by supporting a bill currently before them that would regulate the industry’s drug use.