While the horse racing industry is already under intense scrutiny following a string of deaths over the past year, another issue has cropped up, and this one is related to the 2018 Triple Crown winner, Justify. According to a New York Times article published yesterday, Justify failed a drug test after he won the Santa Anita Derby, which took place just prior to his bid for the Triple Crown.
The substance in question was scopolamine, which can be used to treat intestinal problems in humans, but is considered to be a bronchodilator in horses. The amount, 300 nanogram per millimeter, was considered to be excessive and that “suggested the drug was intended to enhance performance,” (NY Times, 2019). However, this banned substance can also be found in jimson weed and thus environmental contamination could potentially be the cause.
Whatever the cause, the amount of time it took regulators to inform trainer, Bob Baffert, (three weeks later and just nine days before the Kentucky Derby) is in question. In addition, the article claims that the positive drug test should have resulted in disqualification from the Santa Anita Derby, which meant that Justify wouldn’t have qualified to run in the Kentucky Derby at all.
This news has caught the eye of several animal rights groups, who have chimed in with their own opinions.
Animal Wellness Action Executive Director Marty Irby- “Drug testing should be conducted and overseen by impartial operators and not by industry players with a vested interest in looking the other way. The Horseracing Integrity Act would put the independent U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in the saddle and allow it to clean up a sport addicted to doping that’s caused countless horse deaths.”
Sara Amundson, President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund- “Whether it’s doping in Major League Baseball, the Tour de France or horse racing, there’s no room for argument. Horseracing is at a crossroads. Swift Congressional action on the Horseracing Integrity Act is needed to end doping and provide for the welfare of these amazing equine athletes. They’re innocent, they don’t choose to dope and they deserve the protection that a federal law would afford.”