Lasix: Cheating, American Style

In a recent Irish Independent article (9/8/13), sportswriter John O’Brien takes American racing to task for promulgating the notion that Lasix is a humane application of medicine. He writes: “To any rational mind or to those who love racing, though not at the expense of a horse’s welfare, the permitted use of race-day medications like the anti-bleeding drug, Lasix, represents a stain on the sport that needs to be wiped away in the interests of credibility.”

He continues, “The view so often put forward in defence of Lasix is that, whatever else the drug does, it does nothing to enhance a horse’s performance. It is, runs the argument of the trainers and horsemen most anxious to keep Lasix off the banned lists, an issue of medication, never one of deliberate doping. To which there can only ever be one reasonable answer. Who are these people kidding?”

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O’Brien notes that roughly 5% of American horses problematically bleed, but almost all receive raceday Lasix. They do, he suggests, because trainers know that Lasix is a powerful diuretic that both sheds water weight (lighter = faster) and facilitates a system flush. In other words, if trainers are trying to hide things they’re not supposed to be doing, Lasix, as many wayward human athletes can attest, is quite effective.

Recently, the Breeders’ Cup, the richest and perhaps most prestigious racing event in the world, not only reneged on a promised across-the-board Lasix ban, but also lifted (effective 2014) the current one for juveniles. This, because American horsemen threw a temper tantrum. O’Brien says that U.S. racing should be, but probably isn’t, ashamed. In the final analysis, according to the rest of the world, Lasix is nothing more than an entire nation cheating. This is American horseracing.

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