Once again, the thoroughbred horse racing industry here in the U.S. is in a debate about the legal raceday use of the medication Lasix. This medication is allowed for race horses to help prevent exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage which in a few words is a natural occurrence of bleeding in a horse's lungs when they run. I believe other than Canada, the use of raceday Lasix is not allowed anywhere else in the horse racing world and here are a few questions that some have asked:
-Prior to the late 1970's, Lasix was not allowed and horse racing was fine without it. What happened?
-Why can't the fans and the horse racing industry just realize that Lasix is good for the horses, which in turn is good for the jockeys and the sport, and that horses need it to race?
-How do horses around the world race without Lasix?
These are all good questions and I wish I had the answers for all of them. What I can give is my opinion and why I think Lasix along with all raceday medications should not be allowed.
After reading recent letters from various horseman associations that Lasix is needed for this sport to continue, I find it sad that we as an industry are dependent on this medication as if horse racing would end if it was banned. Change is almost always scary, but giving us worst case scenarios such as every horse bleeding down the stretch with their jockeys returning with blood on their silks or horses collapsing more frequently because they did not receive Lasix doesn't fly with me. If this did happen before Lasix, why didn't we hear about it? I'm sure horse racing would not be as popular as it was in the first half of the 20th century if this was true.
One reason why it is difficult to attract new fans to horse racing is because there is a perception that horses are "drugged" or "doped" when they race. While that is not exactly true, they do race with one medication/drug and that is a turnoff for some. Also, there are studies that suggest that Lasix can mask other drugs and that is a reason why it is banned in human professional sports. Shouldn't we know for sure if this is true or not? A ban of raceday medications would also show the true talent of a horse that is not dependent on medication to perform to its full potential.
No one knows the exact reason why thoroughbreds are racing less frequently than they did in the past. Whether it is inbreeding that is weakening the breed or the overuse of medications or a number of other reasons, I feel that the industry needs to find out if it is the use of Lasix during raceday. A horse does not get to choose whether or not it receives Lasix for raceday. However, we have a choice to ban raceday medication and I feel that would be a win-win situation for both human and horse.