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WTF? they are giving coke to race horses now????

WTF? they are giving coke to race horses now????

Old 02-13-2005, 07:27 AM
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Default WTF? they are giving coke to race horses now????

I found this article on the Chicago Tribune website. I guess this might explain the video.

Cocaine in horses stirs testing debate
Racing officials split over penalty for trace amounts

By Michael Higgins
Tribune staff reporter
Published February 13, 2005

At a time of increased focus on drug testing in sports, one of the most controversial issues in horse racing might surprise the casual fan: How much cocaine should be allowed in a racehorse?

Some race fans might guess the answer is "none," but racing officials across the country wrestle with whether to disqualify horses for trace amounts of the drug. The Illinois Racing Board is set to address the issue at a special meeting Thursday.

Some say low levels of cocaine don't indicate cheating, but rather accidental contamination--for example, from a drug-using stable employee whose hands touch a horse's mouth.

But others are skeptical, saying every instance of cocaine in a horse warrants investigation. They urge "zero-tolerance" policing of trainers who might use stimulants, such as cocaine, to make horses run faster or at full speed despite injuries.

A national task force of racing officials, industry representatives and veterinarians has spent the last 2 1/2 years studying drug-testing issues and making recommendations to state officials, but so far the group has steered clear of the cocaine controversy.

"It's a very, very difficult issue to gain a consensus on," said Scot Waterman, a veterinarian and executive director of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's task force on drug testing.

"There is no doubt that cocaine [at some levels] can enhance performance. There's also no doubt that if racing is like society as a whole, horses are going to come into contact with it. ... I can't think of a more polarizing topic."

In Illinois, the issue of drug thresholds--including acceptable levels of cocaine--arose last year when three chemists at the state's former racing laboratory filed a complaint with the state's executive inspector general. A state investigator interviewed two of the chemists last month and talked to a co-worker Monday, the chemists said.

In the complaint, the chemists alleged that from about 1995 until the lab closed in July, they were not permitted to find horses "positive" for cocaine and some other drugs unless the drugs reached certain thresholds--levels set only by top lab officials, not the legislature or the Illinois Racing Board.

"I would say we could have reported two to three times the number of [drug] positives we did," said Stanley Merchant, a former senior chemist who filed a complaint in March. "I think it was just a situation where the industry was not regulated, because these positives were not called."

State officials dispute the allegations, saying their only goal was to ensure that any positives the lab called could be defended in court. They say the three chemists are angry because the state shut their lab in July and arranged for the University of Illinois at Chicago to do the testing. In November, the chemists filed age discrimination complaints with the state Department of Human Rights.

State board to vote on issue

But change is in the works. The Racing Board is set to vote on thresholds for cocaine and other drugs Thursday at the "emergency rulemaking" session.

Currently, racing officials in Louisiana and Ohio don't punish trainers if low levels of cocaine--identified as a cocaine byproduct--are found in a horse's urine. But officials in New York, Kentucky and Maryland say even a tiny concentration of the drug is considered a "positive." That standard applies, too, for horses on the U.S. equestrian team.

The two camps split on whether low levels of the drug might make a horse run faster, and Waterman said current research hasn't settled the issue.

"You can't really design a study to mimic the racing environment," he said.

Illinois officials test about 10,000 winning horses a year, looking for scores of prohibited substances, from steroids to caffeine. These include plainly illegal drugs, such as cocaine, and some legal medications, such as anti-inflammatories, that must be out of a horse's system by race day.

Lab officials are supposed to report positives to the staff of the Racing Board. Track stewards--a team of state and track employees--then investigate. If trainers or owners are found to have violated state rules, they can lose their purse and face fines or suspensions.

Illinois law sets acceptable thresholds for only two drugs: furosemide, a drug to control bleeding, and phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory.

UIC lab director Adam Negrusz said his lab is technically able to call cocaine positives down to very low levels and is doing so for now. But he said he believes those levels are consistent with accidental contamination.

The allegations against the former lab concern the policies of Shelley Kalita, who ran the state's racing lab from 1989 to 2001 before becoming the Racing Board's general counsel.

Merchant and two other senior chemists--Mike Artemenko and Shih-Hsien ****--say that beginning in the mid-1990s, Kalita refused to call a cocaine positive unless lab workers found a key cocaine byproduct, benzoylecgonine, in a concentration greater than 100 nanograms per milliliter of urine.

If initial screening tests suggested a lower concentration, Kalita's policy was not to try to confirm the exact amount and not to report the finding to the board, the chemists said.

"She would look at the data, or not look at the data, and just ask, `Was it under the 100-nanogram spike?'" Artemenko, a chemist and supervisor, said in an interview. "We had cocaines. They may have been reportable if it wasn't for the 100-nanogram threshold."

A fourth chemist, Michael Gutt, said he found cocaine "suspects" about once a month from the mid-1990s until the lab closed in July. "You could tell it was there, but it was below the threshold," Gutt said.

The racing lab called more than 50 cocaine positives in 1994, but only seven from 1995 through 2003, state records show.

Kalita defends her policies, saying she and the chemists agreed that, as a rule, the lab could best defend cocaine positives "around 100 nanograms."

"There was never a question from any of these chemists," Kalita said. "There was never any indication that they didn't agree with the level for calling cocaines--or with any drugs."

Kalita said that the former lab was among the most thorough in the country and that it caught the cocaine positives in 1994, in part, because it did aggressive prerace saliva testing.

Those cocaine positives later ended in $500 fines because of concerns that the horses were inadvertently contaminated, Kalita said. The board recently discontinued the prerace tests to save money.

The Racing Board's executive director, Marc Laino, and the board chair, Lorna Propes, both said they trust Kalita's judgment and believe the lab reported test results properly.

A spokeswoman for Zaldwaynaka "Z." Scott, the state's executive inspector general, said state law bars her from even confirming the existence of a complaint.

No lab director has the right to set thresholds, especially for cocaine, said Robert Baker, an investigator for the Humane Farming Association in St. Louis, a critic of drug-testing practices in Illinois and other states. "For someone sitting in a lab to say, `It's under 100 [nanograms], it must have been the groom,' is ridiculous," Baker said. "They all should have been reported."

A nationwide debate

Meanwhile, the controversy over cocaine testing continues around the country.

In 2002, the National Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association, a trade group for owners and trainers, recommended a threshold of 150 nanograms of cocaine byproduct, calling cocaine an "environmental contaminant." At least two states, Louisiana and Ohio, have that standard in place.

Calling horses positive for low-level cocaine is a "discredited, irresponsible" practice, said Steven A. Barker, the top testing official in Louisiana. "You end up charging a lot of people with drug use that have no idea how this ended up in their horse."

Barker said cocaine traces can go from the hands of a cocaine user to a horse, to the horse's bridle or to a railing that a horse might lick.

In Florida, the state's racing lab calls positives down to 10 nanograms, said Cynthia Kollias-Baker, who directs the testing program. But positive tests of less than 100 nanograms are punishable only by a $1,000 fine. The trainer doesn't forfeit any prize money.

New York takes a different view. The state had a series of low-level cocaine positives in the 1990s, which trainers blamed on unavoidable contamination, said George Maylin, testing director for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. But Maylin said that once the state decided to penalize low-level positives, the "accidents" stopped.
Fraser@PNS now w/S6 is offline  
Old 02-13-2005, 07:29 AM
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fines seem pretty low
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Old 02-13-2005, 07:34 AM
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Default if by "now" you mean the 20's, 30's, 40's....

welcome to the 20th century
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Old 02-13-2005, 07:35 AM
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I guess it never crossed my mind, I expected they would be one something.
Fraser@PNS now w/S6 is offline  
Old 02-13-2005, 07:37 AM
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I hear it's one hell of a drug
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Old 02-13-2005, 08:17 AM
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Default Cocaine used to be used as an anaesthetic for horses.

I don't know how long it's been since that was done.
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