COLLINS: BANNING DRUGS TO ENSURE THE BREED’S INTEGRITY
by Lincoln Collins | 09.12.2012 | 10:04am
It has become unfashionable to talk about the integrity of the Thoroughbred breed, but the breed is the bedrock of the Thoroughbred industry. Anyone leaving Lexington by plane walks across an enormous chart almost literally etched in stone which details the carefully preserved lineage of Thoroughbred stallions dating back nearly 300 years. Those 300 years have seen constant refinement of the breed by careful selection, evolving from match races run in four-mile heats to the extraordinary combination of stamina and speed that makes the modern racehorse. Anyone breeding a horse has the potential to change the breed and most people who breed horses, be they commercial or not, dream of being credited as the breeder of a Zenyatta or a Frankel. Aristocrats and billionaires have bred great horses, but so have small breeders with limited resources and an unshakeable belief in their own methods.
The considerations in breeding a horse are myriad, among them: How far will he stay? Will he mature early? Will she be sound? And above all, will he be fast enough? The test of all the theories and experiments lies only on the racetrack. The best looking horse isn’t necessarily the winner, the most expensive horse isn’t necessarily the winner, but the winner on the track should be the best horse. Unfortunately, the test has become corrupted in the United States and the corruption is that of widespread drug use. Scientific study1 indicates that severe bleeding is a heritable trait, confirming what breeders had concluded at least a century ago2. By allowing horses to run on Lasix, this infirmity is largely hidden. To make matters worse, Lasix seems to be a performance enhancer, so that in order for a horse that doesn’t have the infirmity (severe bleeding) to be competitive with the horse that does have the infirmity, the horse that doesn’t have the infirmity has to receive the drug the infirm horse receives. Therefore virtually all horses run on Lasix and no one knows which are severe bleeders and which aren’t. This Kafkaesque situation can only serve to perpetuate severe bleeders in the North American Thoroughbred population. It would be wrong, however, to focus solely on Lasix. A number of drugs can be present in a horse’s system on race day, which is unacceptable in other parts of the world and distorts our perception of the soundness and physical abilities of racehorses. Among them are the anti-inflammatory drugs Bute and Banamine and the bronchodilator Clenbuterol. Clenbuterol is particularly insidious since it, if administered on a regular basis and in large doses, has a steroidal effect that potentially circumvents the various bans on steroids
enacted over the last few years. It should go without saying that we must also take steps to ensure that the “designer” drugs, which have destroyed the credibility of other sports, do not do the same to ours. It is futile to argue about which drugs are “good” drugs and which drugs are “bad” drugs. We should be focused on having no drugs present in a horse’s system on race day. It is the only way to ensure the integrity of our racing and of our breed. Nobody should suggest that therapeutic drugs do not have a legitimate place in the training of a racehorse, but if a horse is not capable of racing without drugs in its system it shouldn’t be running at all. The pessimists say we have already ruined the breed. I don’t agree – the North American Thoroughbred is too resilient to be destroyed in a couple of decades. Resilience, however, is not invincibility. We must end racing’s 30-year plus drug experiment before the pessimists are proven right. Tomorrow: Counterpoint by trainer Dale Romans Lincoln Collins, an international Thoroughbred consultant, is president of Kern Thoroughbreds. 1.) South African Journal of Animal Science 2004 “A genetic analysis of epistaxis as associated with EIPH in the Southern African Thoroughbred “ H. Weideman, S.J. Schoeman and G.F. Jordaan 2.) Bloodstock Breeders’ Review 1913 J.B. Robertson
This is Dale Romans response to the above……………………………….
(The following is a counterpoint to the commentary by Lincoln Collins of Kern Thoroughbreds, calling for a ban on race-day medication.) Thoroughbred racing is challenging; horses are urged to run as fast as they can, for distances up to a mile and a half, with a 125pound jockeys on their back. There is, however, one long-known problem that affects racing horses. Racing causes EXERCISE INDUCED pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH, respiratory bleeding) in 100% of horses. Lasix/Salix (furosemide), a human blood pressure medication, has proven, over 40 years, to be the most effective preventative of EIPH. Claims that
horse trainers use Lasix to shed water weight and gain a competitive edge, thereby putting horses at risk of catastrophic injuries, are simply unfounded.
Thoroughbred trainers and owners are committed to do all they can to prevent racing injuries. Lasix has no harmful effects, it is fair across the board because all trainers can use it; and it is a proven preventative of exercise induced pulmonary damage to Thoroughbreds. Lasix research points overwhelmingly to its benefits for horses. On May 14, the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) set forth that Lasix PREVENTS the pathological lung changes that lead to bleeding. Proof comes from the definitive 2009 South African study, which showed that furosemide administration decreased the incidence and severity of EIPH in Thoroughbreds. Furthermore, no competitive advantage comes from its use: all trainers have access to the medication, and the actual weight loss is but a fraction of the Thoroughbred's hulking frame. The use of Lasix in racing is very tightly regulated. Assertions are often made that the ideal path for American racing is a sport without race-day medications. I question this claim: Is banning a medication that unquestionably protects the health and welfare of the racing horse putting the welfare of the horse first? The AAEP letter, previously referred to, suggests that without Lasix trainers will withhold water from horses leading up to a race to produce dehydration - a clearly non-humanitarian practice. Before Lasix, herbal remedies, nutraceuticals, and ineffective medications of no scientific value for preventing EIPH were used, with side effects that jeopardized a horse's health. As the AAEP explicitly set forth, "None of the aforementioned products have any scientific merit for treating EIPH, and would only add to the industry’s concern about overmedication in racing." Lasix is the only proven EIPH preventative. Trainers, in other parts of the world, are allowed Lasix in training but on race day may be forced to employ alternative medications that fall below the scope of regulation - perhaps including some of the treatments outlined above. These facts are being ignored to the detriment of our magnificent Thoroughbreds. I have spent most of my life in the racing industry and I believe that horse racing must come down to what is in the horse’s best interest. The welfare of the horse has gone by the wayside of late, for reasons too numerous to mention. It is my firm belief that one of the worst abuses that can be done to the racing horse is to ban Lasix. I am not suggesting that racing does not require changes, particularly when it comes to stopping trainers illicitly gaining an edge, but banning Lasix will do no such thing. This prescription for racing would place countless Thoroughbreds at risk of catastrophic injury, where a humane method of relieving the duress of competition is cast aside in favor of mystery concoctions.
Our horses and our industry, looking to ensure the safety of Thoroughbreds through a unique preventative medication, Lasix, deserve better.
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