FALCON POINTS

Latest horse racing scandal shows PEDs are still a thing, and baseball should pay attention, too

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I have long been an advocate and fan of horse racing. My love for the sport goes back decades, and I am still very much involved with racing. So when the news broke on Monday that the FBI had charged 27 people in an elaborate doping scheme designed to enhance the performance of race horses, my reaction was two-fold.

1) Embarrassment for the sport I have invested so much in over the years.

2) Happy to see these scumbags caught.

Rough year

Of course, pundits are already weighing in. And they should. Horse racing has been in the cross hairs for all the wrong reasons in the past year. The horse deaths at Santa Anita. The disqualification in the Derby. The shocking news that Justify should have never been allowed in the Triple Crown races.

Now this. And most people react with a collective yawn. Cheating in horse racing? Who knew? A baseball sign stealing scandal becomes national news and is over-reported to death. But where is the outrage for this?

PEDs are nothing new

When baseball's PED scandal exploded, lost was a simple fact: Performance enhancing started with horse racing. It then moved on to human athletic endeavors. When it became public, baseball players went before Congress; no one raised an eyebrow at horse racing.

And it is well past time we should. Both sports have checkered pasts. Would it shock anyone that they are using new PEDs that can't be detected?

The latest scandal

If the FBI is to be believed - and they reportedly have multiple phone conversations recorded - several trainers, including Jason Servis, trainer of 3-year-old champ and recent winner of the $20 million Saudi Cup, Maximum Security - were using a substance called SGF-1000.

The PED is "intended to promote tissue repair and increase a racehorse's stamina and endurance beyond its natural capability."

While racing has tests for many drugs, SGF-1000 is not one of them. One of the veterinarians indicted was caught on tape saying "They don't even have a test for it … there's no test for it in America."

While everyone is innocent until proven guilty, if the tapes are to be believed, this group of people will have a hard time selling a not guilty verdict.

And there's more

Forget the fraud perpetrated on the betting public - we will get to that - the dangers to the horses are obvious. There were drugs that enhanced blood cell counts, and even snake venom was used to dull pain. In essence, it allowed injured horses to run. And yet the world is shocked when there are horse deaths on the track. Don't think these things aren't related.

In addition, it's always suspicious when a trainer starts taking horses from other trainers and immediately improves their performance. It is extremely common, and Servis is one of those. It is also unfair to the trainers who are not cheating.

Long history

Like baseball, horse racing has a long history of pushing the limits to get an edge. Many riders have used "buzzers," shocking devices to make the horses run faster. Some have fed horses edible marijuana for soreness. And if you hang around the track long enough, you will hear all kinds of stories. Some are pure fantasy; but there are enough cases that almost anything is believable. And if you think it is just the people caught on tape by the FBI, think again. It is widespread, as common as steroid use was in baseball. And it needs to stop.

Many suffer

At its purest, horse racing is a beautiful sport, with equine athletes combining with human athletes in the most authentic of competitions. There are trainers and people connected to the horses who love the animals who make their livelihood, and treat them better than children. But then there are the quick-buck artists who are looking for big paydays; con men and women who are only out for money. They exist in every walk of life, but when they encroach on racing and endanger an animal, they cross the line. They make millions of dollars off of these creatures and squeeze out every penny they can get with no regard for the horses or betting public. These people need to be weeded out of the sport. Monday's arrests should be just the start.

The forgotten group

As someone who bets on the races, this behavior is unacceptable beyond the danger to the animals we all love. They are committing fraud against the horseplayer. Our group is the most under appreciated in racing. Without people betting on the races, there would be no horse racing. Yet the player has little voice. Some tracks actually cater to the player (Sam Houston and Santa Anita among them) but most simply don't care. The criminal element in the sport clearly doesn't care about us, either. And without us, you don't exist. It's way past time somebody recognized that.

Racing needs to take a hard look at itself and clean this up immediately. But will it? Probably not. The reality is that none of these scandals ever brings change.

And that frankly sucks, because there are good people in the sport, and there are those of us who love to bet and watch the athletes at their best.

As horseplayers, we want two simple things: An honest race to bet on and safety for the animals and jockeys that ride them. There are more people who think like that than there are cheaters and criminals, but the latter group is too big, and something needs to be done.

Back to baseball

The scary part is, if there are PEDs that aren't tested for in horse racing, then should we not assume they have trickled into baseball and other sports again, like they did in the first place? Are we buying the "juiced ball" theories again? The big difference is when a baseball player does it, it is his choice, and the damage he does is self-inflicted.

The horses do not have that choice, because these scumbags made it for them.

As a fan of the sport, I am embarrassed. But I am glad they got caught. And I hope they get everyone else who is doing it as well, so we get an honest and fair run for our money from athletes whose lives are not being unnecessarily put at risk.

And I hope this tip of the iceberg does not extend to other sports. Because it certainly has before.

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THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: Quaker State 400 preview

Photo via: WikiCommons.

This week, the NASCAR cup series heads to Kentucky Motor Speedway for the Quaker State 400. Built in 2001, this track is a 1.5 mile tri-oval with a dog-leg on the front stretch. The most dangerous part of the track has to be turn three as the corner is flat compared to the other three corners that are banked. This has been a major point of contingency for these drivers as most of the cautions end up being there. Look for turn three to be a hot spot come Sunday. Last year, both the Busch brothers finished 1-2 in one of the most exciting finishes of the season so there will be a lot of hype for this race to live up to.

Last week at Indy, as we all expected the race was a crazy one. Over the course of the race's 160 laps, we saw many horrific accidents including a scary pit road accident involving Corey Lajoe, Ryan Blaney, Justin Allgier, Ryan Preece and others. The wreck started when everyone got stacked up entering the pits and the calamity was on from there. During the wreck Brennan Poole struck Rear Tire Changer Zach Price as he was trying to avoid the wrecking cars in front of him. After the incident fans and media alike all held their breath as they awaited news on his condition. But when the camera panned to him being loaded into the ambulance, there was a huge sigh of relief as he gave everyone a thumbs up signifying he was okay. Another scary moment was both Erik Jones and Alex Bowman's vicious crashes. Both cars had tire failures that sent their cars directly into the wall. Fortunately both drivers were okay but their days were over.

In the end, tire wear would end up claiming one more victim as it took out Denny Hamlin as well. With seven laps to go, the four-time winner this season was in prime position to get his fifth victory until his right front tire blew out, sending him hard into the turn 2 wall. This mishap handed the win to his main rival in the championship, Kevin Harvick, as he went on to claim his third Brickyard 400 victory and fourth win of the year. When it was all over, many questioned why there were so many tire failures and if new owner Roger Penske would make an effort to possibly widen the pit-road after the massive accident on Sunday.

Needless to say, there are a lot of questions on what will be different at Indy in 2021. When I talked to spotter Freddie Kraft on Tuesday, he gave a lot of good insights on both topics. When it came to the tire failures, he talked about how the increasing corner speeds at the racetrack has put a lot of pressure on these Goodyear tires which eventually led to them coming apart. As far as Pit-Road and what they can do to fix that, he talked about how it is difficult to make changes to a track that is so historical. Which makes sense, but he followed this up by saying that maybe it would be wise to give up a little history and move the wall over and make it wider. It will be interesting to see what NASCAR does in the coming months.

On Friday, Associated Press journalist Jenna Fryer revealed a bombshell announcement that 7-time champion and NASCAR's biggest name Jimmie Johnson, had tested positive for coronavirus. As everyone knows, the world is going through the worst pandemic it's ever faced in this lifetime. With the sport coming back and racing again, it was only a matter of time until one of the drivers came down with it. Unfortunately it had to be NASCAR's most recognizable driver. Thankfully, Jimmie made a full recovery and was cleared to return this weekend at Kentucky. This was a big scare for everyone in the NASCAR world, but I have to give a lot of credit to Johnson for being as forthright as he was about his diagnosis with everyone who he works with. It will be good to have Jimmie back on Sunday.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Kyle Busch. While this season has been a disappointment for the defending champion, Kentucky would be a great place for him to turn it around. Ever since the cup series has started going there, Kyle has always been in contention to win. In fact, he won the first cup series race that was run at this track back in 2011. In his nine starts there, Kyle has finished outside the top ten only once and even then he finished 12th, back in 2016. Last season it appeared that Kyle was on his way to a third victory at this track, but he came up one spot short to his brother Kurt in a fantastic last lap duel. After a late race restart this weekend though, I see Kyle redeeming himself and capturing his first victory of 2020. Look for Kyle to get back on track come Sunday.


All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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