Friday, December 2, 2011

Confronting Drugs in Racehorses

Glenn Thompson, who trains racehorses out of the old Whitney barns in Aiken during the winter, has written a book about drugs in racing. The book is called “The Tradition of Cheating in the Sport of Kings,” and it contends that the vast majority of horses racing today are being illegally medicated by their veterinarians on race day. This epidemic of illegal medication, Thompson says, is contributing to the breakdown of racehorses and threatening the future of the sport.

Some of the medications that Thompson discusses are corticosteroids such as dexamethasone. Others are hormones such as ACTH, which is used to help horses relax. Others are vitamins and chemical compounds such as magnesium sulfate (Epsom Salts) and vitamin B1, which are used in conjunction with Lasix on horses that are bad bleeders.

Some of these substances sound relatively benign (giving vitamin B1 to a racehorse does not sound like such a terrible thing), but what Thompson is coming out against is not so much the compounds themselves, but the way they are being used.

“It is illegal for a vet to give a shot of anything other than Lasix on race day,” he says. “But you see vets going in to give the horse his Lasix, and they have four or five needles in their hands. It happens all the time.”

Another thing that Thompson points out in his book is that the medication rules are different from one state to the next, which can be confusing for trainers and bad for horses.

“In some states you are allowed to give adjunct medications with Lasix, but in other states you aren’t. It would be better if the rules were the same everywhere.”

Glenn’s book, which took him about three weeks to write, was published as an e-book by Smashwords, an electronic book publisher. It is available for download to a computer, iPad or other mobile device for $9.99.

Glenn, who will be back in Aiken to train this winter, says that most of the reaction to the book so far has been positive.

“People have come up to me and shook my hand,” he says. “The only negative reaction that I have gotten was from one of my vets, who quit. He didn’t say anything to me, he just stopped coming to my barn.”

To order a copy of the book, visit

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