Momentum builds for drug-free US racing

Donna Brothers, Sports Commentator and COO of Starlight Racing.
Donna Brothers

Drug-free racing in the US has another supporter in sports commentator Donna Brothers, who has spoken out about the use of furosemide in the thoroughbred industry.

Brothers has joined many other respected figures in the US racing industry in the WHOA (Water Hay Oats Alliance), a grassroots movement supporting the passage of federal legislation to prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport of horse racing.

She said she supported the alliance and federal legislation to bring clean racing to the US, “because this is something that we have been unable to achieve by ourselves”.

Brothers, who is alsoChief Operating Officer of Starlight Racing, cited the Hinchcliff, Morley and Guthrie study that showed that 65% of horses racing without Lasix (furosemide; Salix) showed only Grade 0 or Grade 1 levels of exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH).

“Doesn’t that actually support the notion that at least 65% of horses do not need Lasix? Let’s take this one step further and say that we eliminate Lasix tomorrow and 35% of the horses race themselves into EIPH and subsequent retirement while 65% of non-EIPH horse continue to race.

“OK, I get that for a few years we may have a shortage of horses to race. But if only the 65% who could race without Lasix went on to the breeding shed to reproduce, it also stands to reason that in a relatively short amount of time we could strengthen the breed and reduce the incidence of EIPH drastically.”

Brothers said she did not believe there had been enough studies on the dependence of furosemide that may have been “created” in the thoroughbred.

“It is widely known that most doctors recommend against people using Visine (or other redness reducing eye drops) on a consistent basis because, after just a few days of daily use, it will make the blood vessels stop doing their job of constricting naturally. The result: your body (or eyes) become addicted to Visine in order to ‘get the red out’. Same with nasal sprays. After just a few days of daily use your nasal passages will no longer do the hard work of trying to keep your air passageways clear, they’ll leave it to the nasal spray.

“Well, since Lasix is affecting the same types of tissue and blood constricting areas, is it possible that horses who are put on Lasix as a ‘preventative’ can then become addicted to Lasix?  Simply because their bodies will no longer do the hard work of blood vessel constriction left unaided? This is a field that has either been left unexplored or under-reported.”

She noted that most European horses are never stabled at a track for more than a few days (only to race) and spend the bulk of their time in bucolic settings with “yards”of green grass, taking leisurely, long walks to their gallops and then another leisurely, long walk back to their “yard”.

“It is certainly possible that the cosmopolitan type setting of many of America’s stable areas is not ideal for a horse’s overall health. But it is also possible that the regular administration of Lasix is adding to this problem and not alleviating it.”

Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA)

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