"Doping" of Race Horses: In Old Day Little "Dutch Courage" Was Not Considered Out of Way, Daily Racing Form, 1924-03-04


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"DOPING" OF RACE HORSES In Old Day Little "Dutch Courage7 Was Not Considered Out of Way. 4 Never Bid Any Good "or Was It Harmful Modern "Drugs" Scientifically Administered a Menace. By SALVATOR. Recently Daily Racing Form reprinted from , an English turf journal a reminiscent article by a well-known British reviewer of thoroughbred affairs, in which ho mentioned at some length various "doping" cases, real or suspected, that had come under his personal notice, as well as referring to others. His observations were naturally confined to transatlantic happenings, but his intimation was that some of the most flagrant derelictions of this sort that had happened in that part of the world were due to trainers from America or, as the British scribes are politely prone to refer to it, "the back of beyond." In the course of this article the writer mentioned touches, in a sketcny way, upon the "early history" of giving stimulus to horses for the purpose of getting everything possible out of them in their races, and remarks that in his own early days the practice of giving a racer a little "Dutch Courage" was not considered anything out of the way, being really a simple and, in its effect, innocent procedure. EQUINE TirrLERS. Every veteran could bear the same testimony, I believe. In the "brave days of old" the precept "Like master, like horse" was often followed ana before a supreme effort a "dhrop av mo ch rather" was a common thing. The high-toned stable rather disdained the ordinary alcoholic "bracer" that did duty in humbler entourages, and its steeds had their nips of champagne or port, the sparkle of the "wealthy water" in especial being supposed to impart a similar scintillance to the recipients speed; port, on the contrary, being esteemed for its virtues to help out over a distance of ground. Sherry was also favored by some. If some of the bottles of Pommery, Cliquot or Mumra only an owner without pretensions to real class would have been guilty of resorting to Cooks Imperial whose contents found their way down equine gullets in tnose glad, dead days were only now obtainable oy their erstwhile decanters, it may be imagined that they would be devoted to far different uses! In default of nothing better, more than one beachcomber of that period received a good-sized bucket of "suds" in the hope that it would "do the trick," and amusing stories used to circulate about the tastes or perhaps thirsts would be the more appropriate term that certain more or less high-mettled racers used to develop "along those lines." DID NO HARM. Far, far away that all seems now! And amateurishly simple it all was. If "duch-ing" a racer ever did one a particle of good, it was impossible to prove it. But, on the other hand, neither did it oo any harm. "Would that the same could be said of latter day and more "expert" methods of "hopping one." It must be at least thirty-five years ago that real "hop" first began to find its way to the racing stables. This occurred shortly after the period was initiated of scientific j combinations and derivatives of stimulating drugs, and their coming into general use by the human "dope fiend." To the elders of the present generations it is easy to recall the time .when drug addicts almost universally used one of three different forms of "dope," familiarly known to everybody, i. e., opium, morphine and laudanum. These were also, for the most part, used in quite a crude state, and as restrictive or prohibitory laws governing the sale of narcotics and similar drugs were then far in the future the vending of these deadly habit-formers was indiscriminate and "wide open." Later on came cocaine, a derivative from the South America coca-plant, now generally referred to as "coke" and chloral, a derivative from chlorin, both of which added lamentable hosts to the army of addicts. But the high science of chemistry was making giant strides all this while and soon it began to turn out a bewildering variety of narcotic, hypnotic and other derivatives, compounds and by-products. These "refined" forms took the places, in large part, of the earlier crude substances, being scientifically prepared, more convenient to handle, to market and to administer. A CHEMICAL GENIUS. Finally some chemical genius, who is responsible for almost as great an amount of mischief as the inventors of gunpowder and poison gas, discovered and perfected the drug now popularly known as heroin. This is known to medicine as diacetyl-morphia and it has come to be probably the most widely used thing of its kind extant. Either in its free state, or in combination with other ingredients, it is almost omnipresent among addicts. Of the equine addicts this is especially true. Heroin is the one drug upon which all who administer "dope" to horses rely. The reason for this is that it has a powerful effect upon the respiratory system, which is so vitally a part of the racing mechanism. Heroin does marvels to the respiration of a horse, rendering it capable of efforts normally impossible. "When these drugs first found their way to the race track which was in Europe, whither they were introduced in to this count-try if American trainers afterward were prominent as "dopesters" upon European courses, they were not teaching their old-world compeers any new tricks, but merely rendering unto Caesar the things that were Caesars those who compounded and those who administered them were alike novices at the game. For this reason, it was easy to detect a "doped" horse, even if abs6lute proof of the "doping" were not so easy. MINIMIZING THE EFFECT. But "practice makes perfect." Scientific chemistry, for perfectly legitimate uses, was constantly refining upon the preparation and administration of such drugs, especially with a view of minimizing or concealing their effects. The race track ."dopester" has taken advantage of all these things. Nowadays "dope" is so compounded, and its administration so devised, that a horse practically can be drugged with impunity. The old clumsy method of doing it in the paddock, or "shooting it Into" a horse on the way to the iost, and taking a chance of detection and summary punishment, is a thing of the past. The "dope horse," or "snow bird," as he is known in track jargon, receives a series of graduated doses, nicely calculated to accomplish their purpose, and the last of them may be given hours, perhaps, before the bugle sounds for his race. The effect of these drugs is triple. Their ingredients are intended to stimulate to abnormal degrees, the heart, which is the power plant of the circulation ; the lungs, which fulfill a similar office for the respiration ; and the nervous system, which controls the motive powers of the muscles. The reaction, especially of a horse never previosuly drugged, to these stimuli, is tremendous. If they are bunglingly applied, the animal may, and often does, have something approaching a "brain storm" and runs amuck, or tries to. If, however, they are skillfully used, he will do no more, if as much than be restive and fractious at the barrier and give his rider and the starter a bit of trouble. The access of energy which the drugs have produced is not released until the race is on. After the race come the after-effects of the "dope." More than one horse, too heavily "doped," has paid the forfeit with his life, sometimes before leaving the race track, and otherwise within the next few hours. The condition of some of these poor beasts under such conditions is pitiable. So "shot to pieces" are they that their muscles twitch and writhe, or else become rigid ; their hearts pound and plunge like overtasked engines that are on the verge of collapse, and their lungs labor so convulsively that each breath is a struggle. They develop a high fever, with burning thirst and similar concomitants. Their eyes either are unnaturally bright or else glazed and dull and their coats dry and staring. To obviate these effects so far as possible, a second, or what might be termd "relay" system of drugging horses is resorted to, in order to "let them down" and counteract the original dosing. This is a process that varies in the length of time required. Some horses, with its aid, can come out of a "doping" quite rapidly. Others require several days. Others neer really recover, but are ruined for racing purposes in future. CELEBRATED CASES. I do not propose to make any intimations regarding the present extent of "doping" other than to say that it is world-wide j "celebrated cases" have convulsed the turf in all lands and continents. That it is a common practice among the turfs hoi-polloi everybody knows. And its ugly head lifts itself from time to time in the most aristocratic precincts. The most drastic rules have had only a moderate effect. Appearances are preserved. But that is about all. In the old romances of chivalry, there occurs an episode that has taken infinite forms but has always the same central theme. A wizard comes to the court of the king with the most magnificent mantle ever seen. He announces that he will make a gift of it to the fairest lady of the court. But it has a n.agic property making it. impossible for any beauty who has not also lived a life of perfect chastity to keep it about her shoulders. The king immedaitely takes it from the wizard and throws it about the shoulders of the queen, but lie has not strength enough to keep it there, nor can her majesty, despite the most desperate efforts, succeed in doing so. Then one great noble after another essays to gain the magic mantle for his wife by putting her to the test. Not one can stand it. Finally, a high and mighty lord, hot with shame and jealousy, after his spouse has shared the general fate, draws his sword and attempts to cut down the wizard, but the man of wiles simply vanishes into thin air, leaving behind him a demoniac laughter and a series of domestic difficulties impossible of adjustment. A TEST FOR TRAINERS. If some such test were applied to the trainers at some noted race tracks, it is probable that the result would not widely differ ; for there are, to tell the simple truth, very few, however upright, that have not, at some period of their careers, tried out "the dope" at least once, if only for . their own personal satisfaction. It is upon the heart of the race horse that stimulating drugs have the most deleterious effect. There is a prominent Australian authority who has promulgated the theory, "No heart, no horse" or words to that effect. The degeneracy of the race horse, either individually or as a breed, he invariably refers to weakened hearts. This weakening is due to one cause overexertion. Anc that overexertion is, again, due to two causes, one of them natural ; the other unnatural, which is to say, "dope." His theory is that many horses are not given by nature hearts which fit them for great or sustained efforts of extreme speed. On the one hand, these horses make up the rank and file of the platers and "lizards." On the other, that of the sprinters, "pur et simplex." The naturally great-hearted horse is the only one with any capacity for becoming a truly great performer. Many great performers, moreover, never run more than one or two great races, because overexertion damages their hearts early in their careers. They are asked to do impossible things and pay the penalty. Ibis is especially true of horses which are able to go shorter and ever shorter distances, while remaining sound in wind and limb. This inability is not due to any lack of strength, as is often supposed, or failure of nerve force or lung power. It is merely the outcome of deficient heart power. HEART IS INJURED. It is the characteristic of "dope" that its deleterious effects are not soon apparent in so far as weakening either the respiratory or muscular systems are concerned. It is the heart .which succumbs to the abnormal pressure which it produces upon that organ. This is manifested in two chief ways. One of them is extreme dilatation not dilation, please, causing a weakening of the walls that can easily terminate fatally. The other is lesion, or valvular rupture. A long rest can remedy, sometimes even practically cure, lilatation. Valvular trouble is incurable. The horses that suffer from enlarged hearts are those which "come back," after being apparently "done." Those which never come back are the ones with valvular affection. Owing to the fact that sprinting is now the prevalent form of racing, many horses withstand drugging and keep on racing season after season. The reason is that the tests to which they are subjected are not searching enough to disable them. It is the horses subjected to the searching tests that do not go on and on. Nature has gifted some horses with hearts which, if not great ones, are at least tough. These are the genuine "snow birds." The most far-reaching effects of the-drugging of race horses, according to medical experts, is the vitiating effect it has upon the reproductive powers. The failure of many modern stallions and mares to become successful sires and dams is attributed to this cause. Stallions which have been "dope horses" get inferior progeny. With mares it is even worse. They arc apt to bo shy breeders and become permanently barren comparatively early in life. Students of "doping" and its consequences are often heard to express the opinion, emphatically that under no circumstances would they use a stallion or mare for breeding purposes that had ever been "doped." Often, according to their views, one administration has ruined the subject. And of this phase it remains to be said that one of the most unfortunate features is the fact that more than one race horse has been "doped" without either the owner, trainer or jockey being aware of it at the time. Instances of this kind are of common knowledge, and some of them have involved notable horses.

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Library of Congress Record: https://lccn.loc.gov/unk82075800