“There is a frog in South America whose venom is a cure
For all the suffering that mankind must endure
More powerful than morphine and soothing as the rain
A frog in South America has the antidote for pain”
(Paul Simon, “Senorita With a Necklace of Tears”)
We’ve long known that bad trainers will inject practically any substance to make their horses move faster. Cobra venom, cocaine, Viagra, yes, but last year, a new dope du jour surfaced in at least four states – pharmaceutical name, dermorphin, but owing to its amphibian origin, “frog juice” will suffice.
Here’s the thing, though, this Class 1 drug is 40 times more powerful than morphine. 40 times. So, not only does it (obviously) obliterate pain, but as Oklahoma State professor of pharmacology Craig Stevens tells The New York Times (6/19/12), it also causes the horse to “have feelings of excitation and euphoria.” Numb and rabid, exactly what you want in an animal whip-forced to run at breakneck speed.
On a single day in May 2012, 8 New Mexico Quarter Horses tested positive for dermorphin after running trial heats for the lucrative All American Futurity. In Louisiana, 11 horses (from 9 different trainers). Oklahoma, 15. And in Nebraska, trainer Kim Veerhusen was suspended for doping his befittingly named Cheatin Cowboy with the opioid.
Jeffrey Heath Reed was one of the naughty New Mexicans. But while awaiting a second-lab verification, he was allowed to continue racing. Three months later, two of his charges broke down and died competing in another round of Futurity heats. One, 2-year-old Jess a Zoomin, was among the frog-juiced in May. Reed’s suspension at last arrived that fall. For this miscreant masquerading as a professional, the final count included four dermorphin positives (a fifth, Jess a Zoomin’s, was dismissed on a technicality) and two for the anabolic steroid stanozolol.
The picture below was snapped after Reed was suspended. He holds a koozie from “Racing Free,” an organization committed to eliminating illegal doping. Wow.