02/15/2016 12:24PM

Bergman: Does competition bring out the worst in people?


They say that competition brings out the best in people.

While that slogan may have once been true it seems in today’s world we find competition more likely to bring out the worst in people.

A story relayed to me recently suggests that parents of some of the youngest children have begun the competition at historically early ages.

While the idea of pre-pre-school is new to me apparently 3-year-olds can now be enrolled in such institutions of “lower” learning. As the story goes one parent was so worried her son wouldn’t get the proper start he needed and lobbied for one particular teacher, allegedly the “best” one in the school.

Getting ahead starts young these days and some parents try to seek out any means possible to carve a path to success even before a child can even recognize the value.

In a neighboring community to where I live one high school has been known to have multiple valedictorians. And when I say multiple it is many more than two.

This area has become extremely popular with young and ambitious families hoping to gain access to Ivy League schools for their future teenagers.

Earlier this week, there were reports, rumors and yes even some facts regarding several horses testing positive for a drug named Glaucine. Before Tuesday that name meant nothing to most people including yours truly. Apparently the drug itself wasn’t that new but testing for it in New York was.

Of course there were the natural critics that reacted without shame or surprise and quickly read the guilty verdict. Sometimes I wonder whether any of those critics have ever cut corners or sought favor in their chosen pursuits?

There were those who questioned, and rightfully so, why some of the alleged accused were given special treatment based on their name and standing in the industry.

Even I wondered why Jeff Gural would publicly state that he had heard from two of the accused that called to proclaim innocence.

Gural has publicly stated that he wants to clean up the sport and has done what he feels is best to rid those alleged “cheaters” from his three racetracks.

You have to wonder whether he would have taken phone calls or accepted explanations, even premature ones, from any on the long list of trainers he has banned?

No matter what hard line Gural or any others in this industry wish to take in this never ending battle to theoretically cleanse the sport of wrongdoing, modification and understanding has to be a part of the solution.

Regardless how high any of our ideals are we live in a society where getting ahead monetarily is rewarded and even idolized. And that doesn’t always mean that success has to come in a 100 percent clean and honest fashion.

Some of those job creators have long lists of employees that have been laid off and fired as well after a quick buck was extracted. Wall Street insiders have often gamed the system and avoided prosecution on technicalities.

A level playing field is a tremendous concept yet despite how many times we pave over it we never seem to come away with anything that’s totally balanced.

Human nature is quite hard to avoid.

Whenever the word socialism is mentioned in this country people get turned off. Shouldn’t the brightest and hardest working people have a right to get ahead versus the dim and lazy?

Ideally that would be correct and for the most part in the sport of harness racing the brightest and hardest working people do get ahead. It’s no small feat to manage a large stable, purchase the horses with the most ability and overcome all of the pitfalls along the way. There are many notable horsemen that grew because they were incredible judges of talent first and foremost.

There are many trainers that understand the value of conditioning and soundness and of course natural speed. These are the values inherent in the top trainers.

Now on the subject of competition it should come as no surprise whether Glaucine or any other substance finds its way into a horses’ system, that trainers on all levels of success could test positive.

The concept is to take a horse and get the most physically out of them when purse money is on the line. That often means trainers enlist the assistance of veterinarians or others that have discovered undetectable elements that may produce improved results with few side effects. The history of mankind suggests that humans will always be in search of new ways to improve on natural gifts.

Now the question becomes what will be a just resolution to this matter?

If the tests are accurate trainers must accept the rules of the sport. Trainer responsibility must be invoked. You can’t allow a trainer to be listed on the program without that person accepting 100 percent responsibility as to what goes in a horses’ system.

Now here’s the hard part: What is an acceptable punishment?

Here is where absolute banishment becomes a rather sticky subject.

I for one don’t wish to see any trainers on the permanently banned list, a view I held before Tuesday.

There are some who suggest the permanent demise of our sport simply because horses of leading trainers test positive.

It’s hard to fathom the sport is here today nearly 50 years after some of the most notorious race-fixing scandals involving drivers and gamblers were revealed. Positive tests mean something and harness racing must deal with the problems, but the only true way is for law enforcement to catch up with what is being used. If the facts as we know them are accurate New York has discovered the use of an illegal substance and come up with a test to prevent its use.

Horsemen in Pennsylvania are seeking passage of a bill that would allow for Out-Of-Competition testing for EPO.

Apparently there are still those who want to see the best coming out of competition. Let’s root for them.

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RANDY LEE More than 1 year ago
Great Article.....I question what in the world is going on at Pompano Park. George Nap is "ALIVE" on horses that have no shot on paper and all the sudden they are taking new lifetime marks and if the morning line is 12-1, 10-1 why are his horses going off at 4-5?? Something is not right with him....just saying
joe More than 1 year ago
I read your article and the reason why Julie Miller&Ron Burke reached out to Jeff Gural is because they train horses that he owns. The big tracks need to get together and work together and abide by the same rules and enforce these rules without prejudice, if your guilty at Yonkers your guilty at The Meadowlands,Pocono etc, no matter who you are most of these big stables who are thought of as cheats never seem to race 2 yo or 3yo they buy aged horses and fueled them up,race the hell out of them and then there never heard from again. That is another problem in harness racing The Shortness of Racing Stock that is from racehorses being burnt out too young,this must be addressed. Hit the owners in there pockets and the trainers will conform or they'll be out of a job. If the owner keeps on losing money because his trainer is a cheat maybe they will look for a decent trainer who plays by the rules. MOST of the owners in Harness racing race because the were born into it or fell in love with it somewhere along the way. The purse money for a lot of men/women is just so there hobby doesn't cost them a fortune , I PERSONALLY KNOW QUITE A FEW OWNERS WHO DON'T CARE IF THEY MAKE MONEY THEY JUST DON'T WANT TO LOSE A LOT. AND NOT ONE OF THEM ARE MILLIONAIRES. LETS CLEAN IT UP BEFORE ITS GONE
joe More than 1 year ago
Level the playing field let hard work and racing luck determine the outcome.This is a business where anyone(owners) can do well not just the rich getting richer. If owners due well then trainers,drivers&grooms due better. In order for Harness Racing to flourish again we need new blood and if its surrounded by scandal and cheating rumors at any level the new blood that will get involved is unwanted and unreliable.This business needs to be cleaned up make the trainers and horses they train held responsible so if they receive a positive they just can't use a beard as the listed trainer and its business as usual. Maybe if you weren't allowed to race for 30 days because the trainer you use is dirty maybe you would find a decent honest trainer.