Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Big Brown and Anabolic Steroids
With the Belmont Stakes coming up this weekend and a chance for the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years there will be more attention focused on Big Brown. The New York Times published an article about the use of anabolic steroids in the horse racing industry and specifically in Big Brown.
It should be noted that there are a lot of uses for anabolic steroids and many horses need them, primarily geldings ( no do-dads....no testosterone). They are also useful in treating muscle injury and anemia. Unlike humans there is no scientific evidence that anabolic steroids improve racing performance. (Fillies do show improved performance since they have little testosterone). This is most likely due to the fact that horses are already running at near peak anatomical and physical performance. Simply put, they just might not be capable of running any faster than they are right now. Unfortunately, the racing industry, trainers and owners like many of the general public are convinced that it these drugs greatly improve performance. Veterinarians need to be at the forefront of this debate and provide proper information instead of sitting back and letting the industry decide how best to deal with it. When I was working in Australia many of the horses coming back to the farm had been treated excessively with steroids . One of our big problems was trying to get the mares to cycle after being on the track.... and the juice for extended periods of time. It was frequently a year off before they would cycle. I think there should be drug testing on performance horses and have a set withdrawal time for anabolic steroids like performance enhancing drugs. This will help remove the cloud of suspicion that is forming over the horse racing industry. Many have wondered if Eight Bells was using steroids prior to her tragic accident. The trainer adamantly denied giving her steroids and the necropsy report confirmed that he was correct. Hopefully the Belmont will go well and Big Brown can pull it off. Perhaps if we work hard to make the appropriate changes then the specter of cheating,abuse and drugs will be something that is no longer even considered. Well.....it's a nice thought.