Top U.S. Horse Trainer’s Rampant Misuse of Drugs Exposed in PETA Video Sting

Group Files 10 Legal Complaints Against Steve Asmussen and Others in Two States

For Immediate Release:
March 20, 2014

Shakira Croce 202-483-7382

Louisville, Ky.

As reported in The New York Times today, PETA’s four-month undercover investigation of leading thoroughbred trainer Steve Asmussen has for the first time captured on video evidence of chronic misuse of drugs apparently to enhance  horses’ performance and mask their injuries.

Asmussen, who has won more races in the last decade than any other U.S. trainer and was just nominated to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame, was watched and recorded by PETA from April to August 2013 at Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville and Saratoga Race Course in New York. PETA filed a total of 10 complaints against Asmussen and others working with him in Kentucky and New York alleging multiple possible violations of state and federal law.

PETA’s findings include the following:

  • Nehro, the horse who finished second in the 2011 Kentucky Derby, was forced to race and/or train on hole-ridden, chronically painful hooves that were held together with superglue and filler. He was euthanized at Churchill Downs on the day of the 2013 Kentucky Derby.
  • Many, if not all, horses in New York were given daily doses of Thyrozine, a drug used for hypothyroidism, despite no apparent evidence of thyroid conditions. Thyrozine is believed to enhance performance.
  • Dr. James Hunt, one of Asmussen’s primary veterinarians at Saratoga Race Course, stated that “basically all” horses trained by Asmussen are given the diuretic Lasix and admitted that it does make them run faster, because it makes them lighter (through dehydration), suggesting that the drug isn’t used only for its intended purpose of preventing pulmonary bleeding.
  • Nonveterinary staff routinely administered prescription drugs for apparently nontherapeutic purposes.
  • A horse’s legs were burned with liquid nitrogen, according to one trainer, and other horses were blistered with chemical paint, purportedly to stimulate blood flow to their sore legs, leaving multiple scars.
  • Continually sore horses were trained and raced and weren’t allowed adequate time to recover from injury.
  • Apparent immigration and Internal Revenue Service violations include supplying apparently falsified Social Security cards and forcing undocumented workers to use false names.

“We witnessed a horse in such pain that it hurt him even to stand, thyroid and other drugs were dumped into horses’ daily feed, and horses had been blistered with chemical paint in order to stimulate healing and keep them racing,” says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. “Anyone who thinks racing is ‘clean’ can now see that even at this top level, the syringe and pill bottle are the main training tools and most of the horses who make it out alive are reduced to broken wrecks.”

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