Sunday, April 2nd 2006
HARNESS RACING: Drugs and cheating
With the arrest of harness driver Eric Ledford, as well as three other people associated with the Ledford barn, drugged horses are back in the news. As of this writing, the actual trainer of record. Seldon Ledford, has not been arrested. Obviously, the Ledford stable was improving horses dramatically the past couple of years. One of his recent claims, Allstar Blue Jean, was claimed from successful trainer named Ettore Annunziata. In his last start for his old trainer he paced in 1:51.3. In his first start for Ledford he paced in 1:48.4. He also jogged in his next start. He went from a 50k claimer to one of the fastest horses on the grounds. When things like this happen, everyone suspects--really knows--that the trainer is using some sort of illegal drug. From a handicapping perspective, I don't think its hurts bettors that much. I've been following racing since 1971, and in that time period there were always trainers who improved horses suspiciously. If you snapped your fingers and erased all drugs from racing, you wouldn't miraculously turn losing bettors into winners.
The real losers are the honest horsemen who play by the rules. And the horse, of course. Put yourself in an owner's shoes who has horses that are trained by a honest trainer. How many times have you finished 2nd to a horse trained by an obvious juicer?
It's a vicious cycle we have in today's sociey. Cheating. It's not just a problem in sports. In one sales job I had, there was a salesman who was getting a lot of his sales by cheating. I was working for Verizon and according to the company's rules, if they caught you churning sales, you'd be fired. Churning was cheating. Here's how it worked. A customer comes in wtih his wife and wants to buy two cell phones, one for his son and one for his daughter. That's 2 sales for the honest salesman. For the cheater, it's 4. He closes the two current accounts, and creates 4 new accounts. This gives him 4 sales instead of 2. It's called false churn.
Everyone knew that this guy was cheating, but the manager turned her back because she wanted the numbers, too. But who got hurt? The other sales people. The quotas were based on past sales. Since the sales were artificially high because of all the false churns, everyone's quota was much higher than it should've been. This meant lower commisions for the honest sales people.
The cheaters don't see themselves as crooked. They rationalize it. Barry Bonds knew that he was a much better player than Mark McGwire, and he knew McGwire was using, and showing him up, so the next thing you know, he's cheating himself. Vicious cycle. Cheating begets more cheating by more people. The salesman I'm referring too seemed like a really nice guy. But he was one of those bottom-line type of guys who would do anything to be the best, and really didn't see anything wrong with it. Eventually, the manager started to take heat and finally fired the guy.
There's really no other way to stop corruption and cheating in corporate America, sports, and society in general. You have to make the cheaters know that if you break the rules, you'll suffer the consequences.
Get rid of them.
Unfortunately, our society often rewards cheaters. When Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run of the year, he was put on a pedestal. Even the family of Roger Maris was at the game to shake his hand. What a joke. Maybe we wanted to believe that we were witnessing history. But it was a sham. Roger Maris was a fantastic athletic, not a drug user. As for Babe Ruth, well, he was in a class by himself.