Racing’s Drug Problem: More Complicated Than It Looks – New York Times (blog)
As always at Triple Crown time, the thoughts of some in the racing world turn to drugs. Over the past several months, a number of important horse racing groups have joined in a call for the elimination of all race-day medications, notably the diuretic Lasix. And last week, Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky and Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico introduced federal legislation, already supported by three prominent thoroughbred owners, that would impose a draconian “three strikes and you’re out” penalty system for violations of the race-day drug ban. The momentum, it seems, is building for a historic reversal of recent decades’ trend toward allowing more and more drug use.In principle, that’s a good thing, for at least two reasons. First, the health of the racing industry depends on betting, and bettors are, understandably, not eager to pour their money into a game that they suspect is fixed. Parimutuel handle, the gross amount bet at race tracks, OTBs, casinos and online, has dropped by nearly a quarter in the past three years. While most of this decline is probably attributable to other causes — the recession, the wealth of other gambling options, the high takeout, or the share of bets retained by the house — it certainly doesn’t help that many horseplayers think betting on the races is a mug’s game.