One and Done
DEEP in the rainforests of South America, a small frog crouches quietly in the moist understory, as he has done for centuries. A world away, journalists and bloggers type frenetically about dermorphin, and the atrocities of this poison at the hand of man. In our community, we are angry with the cheaters but understand that the depravity of doing anything just to win a purse is a harsher punishment than anyone can lay on them. But we are truly outraged at those who should have disallowed this animal abuse to be a part of our sport.
There is no gray area here. This is not a case of someone administering a medicinal drug for a strategic gain or administering a legal drug within 24 hours of a race. We are not talking about cross-contamination or poppy seeds on a bagel. Dermorphin is classified as Class 1: drugs that are stimulants and depressants that have the highest potential to affect performance and that have no generally accepted medical use in the racing horse. It has absolutely no place on the backside of a track, in the hands of trainers, or even veterinarians. It cannot be accidentally given. To be sure, to administer a Class 1 drug means that someone is blatantly CHEATING.
The truth is disheartening. The last five years have seen 55 Class 1 positives in North America, broken down as such: 12 in 2007, 17 in 2008, 11 in 2009, ten in 2010, and four in 2011. In 2012, there was one positive before the dermorphin positives were called. This year’s Class 1 positives could surpass the total of the past five years with one drug alone. As split samples are being examined and the Class 1 positives are expected to reach an all-time high, our reputation and credibility will plummet to an all-time low, with the public losing what little faith they have in our ability to regulate ourselves.
And so we spin in circles looking for someone to blame.
Each of us is more defensive than the next. Horsemen’s groups say that there are a few bad apples. They try to deflect blame by claiming that they drug test more than any other sport. Racetracks are silent, as if they have no hand in the game, though they consort and contract with known cheaters. They too are complicit. Racing commissions are quick to give lip service and speak of lack of funding. They
shy away from stern punishments and walk on eggshells so as not to embarrass their administrations by getting overturned in court. They are reluctant to take a stand because they aren’t empowered with any depth of knowledge and feel vulnerable. They might get egg on their faces if the horsemen feel like throwing one.
As the saying goes, pessimists find difficulty in every opportunity while optimists find opportunity in every difficulty. This recent incident, looked upon optimistically, comes at the right moment. It offers us all – horsemen and horsewomen, tracks, and commissioners – the opportunity to do something unprecedented: to make a united effort against an indefensible crime that endangers horses, jockeys, and the integrity of the sport itself.
This is an excellent opportunity to pivot a “small win,” a keystone movement that allows us to disarm our confrontations and practice working together. Let’s make a united effort that will be looked back on historically as a landmark moment that saved our sport. Let’s be unequivocal and demand that there be no more Class 1 drug violations in horseracing. Let’s send a strong message – we, those empowered to make a difference, will not tolerate blatant disregard for sportsmanship and animal abuse. One and done: lifetime expulsion from our sport.
We’ll each contribute.
Horsemen’s groups have never thrown anyone out of their organizations for a positive drug test. Make a strong statement and ban any Class 1 violator for life.
Racetracks have not used their power to take a stand against corrupt trainers. Make a strong statement by ruling off all Class 1 violators for life.
Racing commissions have not drawn a hard line in the sand. Make a strong statement and place all Class 1 positives on your stop list and reciprocate with all jurisdictions.
It’s way past the kick-the-can-down-the-road time. It’s time now for One and Done.