AT THE same time the North American racing industry aspires to persuade the public and the rest of the global racing community of its advancing drug policies in terms of horse welfare, it neglects to account for its penchant for chronic over medication regardless of an intangible drug classification scheme.
The continued aggressive use of legal drugs, many of which have potentially non-therapeutic benefits, continues to plague the North American Thoroughbred wherein the number of fatal breakdowns is steadily climbing.
The legalization of drugs and lax regulation has in fact led to increased use of less abrasive drugs with equally dire consequences.
While the effects of most of the Class 1 and 2 drugs are well documented, there is much uncertainty and contention with many of the Class 3 and Class 4 alleged therapeutic medications.
None of these drugs is allowed at any level in most racing jurisdictions around the globe. At the heart of the matter is the idea that if a drug can be used therapeutically, there is no limit to its benefits. Many of these drugs, in particular the corticosteroids, are very potent, and if administered appropriately and judiciously, can be effective in managing pain, inflammation and other equine ailments.
"However, clinical experience has shown the examining veterinarians these drugs can be terribly misused in racehorses. While reducing inflammation can be beneficial in the short term, the underlying pathological condition is often left unchanged. If the true extent of the injury cannot be evaluated by the examining veterinarian at the time of the pre-race examination, horse and rider may be placed at undue risk." 
Although most racing jurisdictions in North America have managed to curb the practice of allowing certain race day medications there persists a culture of drug dependence unlike the rest of the racing world. What are the effects of these so-called therapeutic drugs? Do they in fact enhance performance? Are they genuinely therapeutic? Are they safe? A closer look at the effects of some of these drugs have on the physiology of the horse should cast no doubt upon the false guise they act as purely therapeutic agents.
In the end, it is the manner in which the racing industry has, for practical purposes, developed a tactic that deals with the low-level therapeutic positives spawned by ambitious drug-testing and the adoption of tolerable threshold levels. A threshold is analogous to a speed limit. As long as test results are below the permitted threshold, even if positive drug levels are observed, a trainer, for example, can be warned but not punished.
Continue to Part 6 »
Part 1: Introduction | Part 2: Historical Aspects | Part 3: The Inception of Drug Testing | Part 4: Drugs and Their Actions | Part 5: Policies and Tactics | Part 6: Class 3 Drugs — Performance Enhancing or Not? | Part 7: Class 4 Drugs — Harmless Therapeutics? | Part 8: The Unclassifieds | Part 9: The Call for Reform | Part 10: Who Rules?