07/19/2016 9:38AM

Marks: Speaking out against performance enhancing substances

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Mike Ochsner DVM, a New Jersey based racetrack vet, outlined in a letter to the New Jersey Racing Commission and the Association of Racing Commissioners International the usage of various EPO products including something called Eprex, which is apparently obtainable but there’s no test for it.

The letter was reprinted in Harness Racing Update’s June 25 edition and sparked considerable social media dialog, some of it focusing on what we can and cannot do. It has long been speculated what many think may be occurring on a somewhat regular basis, but this is the first time that what can be considered a credible witness has in an official capacity actually said something. Others have verbally implied that these scenarios do indeed occur, but this is the first time it’s been put on paper with a reputable signature.

Undoubtedly there will be those wishing to keep everything under the rug and not rock the boat so to speak, believing we should avoid ancillary negative publicity at all cost. Though in playing devil’s advocate, what do we really have to lose here? It’s not like our grandstands are full and our betting handles routinely go through the roof.

Moreover, we have precious little outside media coverage other than our own in-house websites who tend to compete with each other in the quest to post what is the good gospel as soon as possible.  

Others have long lamented the situation and one has to wonder how many bettors we’ve lost along the way who simply could not cope with the variations enhancers can cause in either positive or negative performance performances.  

From purely a layman’s point of view, the administering of performance enhancing substances is very much a double-edged sword. Apparently they do indeed enhance performance when administered at the right time, but what happens when they’re not administered and/or withheld at the trainer’s discretion?

Then it becomes a pure guessing game, similar to that old television commercial, “Is it real or is it Memorex?” in which the viewer tries to discern the difference between a live audio from that recorded on the tape.

From the bettor’s perspective it then becomes which version of the horse am I attempting to handicap? In more picturesque terms, is he or is he not “juiced” or “gassed”?

I personally don’t know too much about the mechanisms of steroids though it’s kind of obvious that since eliminated from Major League Baseball, the home run numbers have gone way down.

Whereas Roger Maris’ 61 homers in 1961 got bumped to over 70 by Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa to a degree, nobody in this non-steroid era comes within light years of those numbers anymore. That in itself speaks volumes.

We can rhapsodize forever about the virtues of not being the proverbial rat, burdens of proof and the innocent until proven guilty axioms, but the fundamental reality is that someone is undoubtedly getting away with something. That said, horses have earned records they perhaps should not have, all of which gets recorded in our archives.

That might be fine were we just some backwater pastime in which we ourselves are the primary participants and/or spectators but this is not the case. Harness racing is a world-wide sport and industry in which the rules and regulations should have legitimate teeth rather than being scoffed at as they apparently seem to be according to Dr. Ochsner.          

To say doing something about it is impossible strikes at the core of independent fact finding, as far more difficult mysteries have been uncovered by determined fact seekers.

Or have we forgotten the President whose eviction was primarily due to a couple of creditable and rather intrepid truth-seeking reporters and one courageous Editor In Chief?

Yes indeed, somebody actually said something. What a novel idea. Let’s take the next steps.