From the Dec 12, 1905 Horse Review
"Doping " the Race Horse
A Turf Evil Which Endangers the Future of the Breed and Should Be Stamped
By DR. J. C. McCOY
Best Regards Don
A DEMORALIZATION AND A DANGER.
That such drugs will injure the heart I am positive, and knowing their danger, besides the law that forbids their use, I have never used them on any horse I owned or controlled.
I have seen heart stimulants win races, but I have yet failed to see a horse that had been so treated race well for any length of time. I have a serious doubt whether a horse so dosed will ever rate well the following season. I would under no circumstances buy a horse that I knew had ever been so drugged. The fact is, today I would not buy a horse to race or for breeding purposes unless I was positive that he never had been drugged. I know that such drugs will damage any heart, that they are apt to cause any heart to so dilate that it is not in fit condition for racing. I know that such drugs will frequently cause death, and I am just as confident that stringent turf laws and more stringent laws of the land should be enacted to absolutely stamp out their use. I know that druggists put up these preparations and give them to ignorant men to carry around with them when a small dose will kill a man in a short time, and yet the law about selling poison& is very strict.
Today the man who owns and races horses is confronted by two problems—to drug and win, or not to drug and get beat. If he only raced against the same horses each week It would be different, because the overdrugged horse would finally train off or drop dead and the properly trained horse would go on and win, but each week sees new "dope horses" in competition.
To know that a given drug will do a given thing with certainty takes long experimenting, and two of the greatest heart stimulants have only been known in medicine a few years—nitroglycerine and strophanthus. These drugs are but little understood as yet.
PERMANENT DISASTROUS EFFECTS OF "DOPING."
The half-mile track followers have until, this season been more given to the use of heart stimulants. 'To them we must look for much of our data in studying the results of their use. So far I know of a case where such drugs were used on a horse racing on the half-mile tracks during the campaign of 1904 and the horse raced beyond his normal capacity and won quite a number of races. In 1905 he raced badly and never won. This is just as it should be.
Beyond what I have said I feel confident that the ill effects of giving heart stimulants to racing horses will be shown in their offspring. I certainly would not breed to a stallion who had been raced under the influence of drugs, nor would I select a drugged mare for a matron. The child of the drunkard, the child of the opium eater, the child of any inebriate is never up to the standard and usually is a degenerate.
Some of your readers may think I am putting it too strongly when I say that drugging race horses will deteriorate the offspring. Some will undoubtedly point to the runners and say truly that these horses have been more drugged than the harness horses, all of which is true, but I say that the habit is not nearly so dangerous with runners as with trotters. Runners only go one heat, hence are only drugged once a day. The trotters and pacers are drugged at least twice and often five or six times in one day.
More than all this, most of the stake runners of today in the United States are either English bred or from imported stock. In England the drugging of first-class horses is much less than in America. May not drugging already be showing in the American bred runner? Else why the marked superiority of the English race horse? Is the runner of America being reduced to the same standard as the city-bred child who can't compete with the country-bred child? Were it not for the infusion of new blood from the country the town-bred race of people would soon run out. Is it possible that new infusions of English racing blood must be resorted to to keep the American bred horse up to a decent standard? If new blood must come from England to help our thoroughbreds out what are we to do for our trotters? Where will we get our new blood? Is it not better to stamp out once and forever the pernicious habit and save our breed? There are quite a number of great trotting sires whose offspring are away below the standard expected of them. While drugging is comparatively new, it already seems to me to have left its pernicious influence in our coming harness breed.
Of course the use of heart stimulants on a horse early in the season, and before the heart has been strengthened and developed to perform the tremendous strain of racing, is more dangerous, more liable to kill or permanently injure the animal, than when they are first given late in the season and after the heart has been thoroughly seasoned.
Take a horse naturally game, one who refuses to acknowledge defeat. Race him out of condition and he becomes tired but still struggles on heat after heat, with lungs choked up with the blood the right heart has not power to push through them as fast as it should, the heart choked up, not freeing itself thoroughly, more blood in its chambers than belongs there, to which is added the increased resistance of the congested lungs. Take such a horse and give him a heart stimulant and then what happens? The stimulant causes the heart to struggle on after the natural energy is exhausted and the tired-out and relaxed muscles of the organ, unable to stand the strain, stretch, the heart chambers enlarge, a dilated heart is the consequence. An impaired heart that never will allow of first class racing again, a heart liable to stop suddenly that day or any other day; without warning its stoppage may come.
There are conditions that may produce a dilated heart that are not referable to heart stimulating drugs, nor to overexertion. Such are the degenerative changes in the hearts structure, diseased conditions that soften the heart fibres. Such conditions are not worth dwelling on in connection with the race horse, as a horse so affected rarely, if ever, shows quality enough to get to the races. Improper fitting has caused the heart of many a good horse to dilate, and the increased frequency of this condition today is directly referable to the use of heart stimulants.
Such is the story of the cause of most cases of sudden death amongst horses and men alike. The history begins with an unprepared heart that is overworked. A heart that is wrestling with more labor than it can perform, stretches its walls beyond their power to contract, a dilated heart is the result. In some cases needed rest is given and the heart walls gradually thicken up to compensate for the overstretching and a useful heart is produced; not a first-class heart, but one that, if not overtaxed, will perform its functions for many years to come.
This is one story. The other is of a dilated heart that is overtaxed still more, overtaxed to the point where it becomes discouraged and, having made a last frantic effort to free its overfilled chambers, stops.
Then last of all to the story of an improperly prepared heart that has been drugged to perform extra labor; the drugging giving the heart more power to squeeze out the blood it collects. Here is the danger. The muscular walls of the heart are not strengthened by the drugs, and with the added force from their use the thin walls of the heart not only give a little, but stretch so far beyond their power to contract that sudden arrest of heart action is quite often the result. Such is the true history of the so-called deaths from "heart failure." Heart failure it surely is, but from an easily understood cause.
I have tried to explain the dangers of giving horses those heart stimulants, which are becoming of common use today although there is a turf law forbidding the use of such drugs. There is hot one set of drugs that will answer the demands of heat racing. The very nature of these drugs makes it very easy to abolish their use. First, they are given by the mouth; second, the dose is quite bulky; third, their taste is very disagreeable to the horse, who fights against taking them; fourth, to be successful these drugs must be given one-half hour before the first heat and immediately after each succeeding heat. Their effect wears out in thirty minutes. The remedy is to have all horses cooled out in one enclosure. Guard this enclosure—have the horses watched by reliable men and absolutely forbid the giving of any remedy to the racing horse. The horse in condition needs no stimulant nor other drug. I have proved this conclusively. If the practice of "doping" is broken up the chances of all horses will be equal. Today their chances are not equal. A "doped" horse can beat one not "doped" and the man who refuses to use "dope" is handicapped. For the benefit of the sport the breaking up of "doping" is demanded. For the safety of the horses' hearts it is demanded. For the prevention of fraud it is demanded, and, above all, for the preservation of the breed, of the coming horse, it is demanded. Beside all this an eminent lawyer has assured me that if a horse dies when it can be proved "dope" was used, the insurance cannot be collected as the insurance company only guarantees to pay death claims where the rules of racing are complied with, and when "dope" is given turf law to violated. It is now for the Grand Circuit and the two great trotting association& to say whether they want clean racing or not. The law exists—the remedy is at their hand.