07/12/2007 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


Dangerous drugs in so many sports unlikely to vanish

Bravo to Andrew Beyer and the Racing Form for Beyer’s July 11 column, “Litmus test for drug justice,” tackling the drug/doping issue that is a huge black eye for the racing industry and all competitive sports.

I am not a trainer, owner, or even consider myself an animal rights activist. But I do passionately love horse racing, and I am knowledgeable about steroids. I was involved in amateur bodybuilding in the early 1980s, and I saw firsthand what humans will do to take shortcuts to achieve that winning edge.

The problem of illegal medications didn’t get undivided national attention until it hit baseball. There is no doubt, though, that cheating has been going on since the late 1970s in bodybuilding, track and field, football, baseball, cycling, weight lifting, horse racing, and most competitive sports. I have seen women bodybuilders take so much male testosterone that it affected their voices and body hair, caused acne, and enlarged their private parts to the extent that specially made posing trunks were necessary. My point? Just imagine, if humans are willing to risk their own body at this level to win, what are they going to do to an animal who has no say in the matter. I can’t even imagine, and I really don’t want to think about it.

All too many trainers and owners seem to be driven just like health-insurance companies, greedy corporations, and politics – by money.

Unfortunately, in some sports, people like to see freaks (as in bodybuilding and professional wrestling) or records broken (track and field). Taking drugs out completely could hurt those industries. But in sports like football and horse racing, if drugs were eliminated, the level of the game might decrease, but the excitement of the game is not affected. The strong will survive, and the cheaters will not.

Shall I get into why breeding has been affected by the drug industry? No, I don’t know if most people really care. How sad.

Thank you, DRF and Andrew Beyer, for trying, but I think some form of cheating will always be with us.

Ty Alexander - Del Mar, Calif.

Latest incident will slip from memory

I applaud Andrew Beyer’s impassioned take on the drug scandal du jour (cobra venom allegedly found in one of Patrick Biancone’s stalls). Beyer’s righteous indignation set me all atingle.

The July 11 column had it all right except for one thing: Nothing will come of this affair. Racing officialdom will, of course, view with alarm, sound the sirens, appoint a blue-ribbon commission . . . and go back to sleep. This outcome is predictable because states are addicted to tax revenue, and racing produces a steady stream of it. In order to produce more of it, full fields are indispensable, and many trainers won’t enter their charges without an edge. So the Faustian bargain is struck: Do your thing, but try not to embarrass everybody, okay? Thus, Biancone’s real sin may simply have been carelessness.

Oh, to be sure, Biancone may have to go to his room for a little while if indeed the stories are true, but, as sure as night follows day, cobra venom will in due course be added to the list of permissible medications: Just in minute quantities, though, and never on race day.

Kenneth M. Steele - Bensalem, Pa.

Case doesn’t call for such venom

Even as Keeneland’s president, Nick Nicholson, urged everyone to “give the facts a chance to come out,” Andrew Beyer seemed to be bent on a righteous path of trial by media for trainer Patrick Biancone. This appears strikingly similar to his attitude several years ago about Canadian trainer Frank Passero.

Passero, at the 1996 Gulfstream Park meet (when it still looked like a racetrack), set a modern-day record by sending 14 consecutive winners to post over a period of two weeks or so. Beyer seemed to find it inconceivable this feat could happen without chicanery. Well, it does happen.

Beyer also appears to be an expert on what medications are humane or not. Is there anything therapeutic in training or racing these majestic animals on Butazolidin or even stronger medications? I have my doubts. Who knows, cobra venom just may be prove a viable alternative to some of the antiquated treatments used today.

Joseph J. Giambra - Kenmore, N.Y.

Woodbine stakes DQ wrong on principle

I attend simulcasting five times a week and bet numerous tracks, and I had recently become of fan of Woodbine races via simulcast.

I will say without doubt, in all my years of watching races, the disqualification two Sundays ago of Sealy Hill in Bison City Stakes at Woodbine was the worst call I have ever seen (“Woodbine stakes DQ appealed,” July 8). Yes, I had $100 to win on her, her but this is not about my stolen money.

Sealy Hill’s slightly drifting in had no effect on the final outcome. The horse she slightly bothered, Quiet Jungle, was stopping and was well clear of the other horses besides Street Sounds. Quiet Jungle was going to finish third no matter what. The incident did not affect the final result, and that’s the bottom line.

Sealy Hill was a convincing winner, and the people who disqualified her have no business being stewards. If the horse Sealy Hill bothered had lost a close finish for a better placing, then the DQ would have been totally justified, but she did not.

Just that quick, I have sworn off all Woodbine races based on principle and will not wager another penny on the track

Jeff Richardson - Lincoln, Neb.

Ruling body seems out of commission

In light of yet another appeal, this time involving Sealy Hill in the Bison City, I have a question for the Ontario Racing Commission: How do you create integrity in horse racing in the eyes of the public when you consider creating two separate outcomes from one race, one for the betting public and one for the owners, one dictated by the stewards and the other a reversal?

The floodgates were opened when the commission reinstated the disqualified Dances with Ravens in the Plate Trial stakes a few years ago (“Plate Trial DQ reversed,” Sept. 25, 2005).

This racing commission has destroyed the integrity of this sport more than any cheating trainer, owner, or jockey ever could in doing so.

Its time for racing to have one set of rules for everyone and one outcome for everyone.

Larry Roswell - Brantford, Ontario