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Horse Drugging

You might say that the drug problem in a recent story out of Santa Fe isn’t your typical sort of addiction problem – at least not for those taking the drugs. Rather, it’s more of a gambling addiction that has led horse owners to cheat at the expense of their animals so that they can be more assured of winning money. When desire for money leads you to break the law and harm other people and animals, it’s definitely a problem. It’s a drug problem where the recipients are unwilling participants.

There are five horse tracks in New Mexico, and they are known for being some of the biggest drug dens in our state. The Racing Commission is very concerned, and hoping to do something about it. But will their suggested plan really make a very big difference?

That’s the big question. Because currently out of the 10 or 12 horses that participate in each race, one or two of them will be randomly selected to undergo drug testing, to see if the horses were given any performance-enhancing drugs. The commission wants to increase their budget another $800,000 so that they will be able to test two or three more per race. The money would pay for the testing and for hiring three more employees, including another track investigator. So they would still only be testing about one-third of the horses in each race instead of one-sixth of them. Would this be enough of a deterrent to end the illegal doping? According to Vince Mares, director of the Racing Commission’s day-to-day operations, it would not, but it would reduce the amount of cheating.

That’s a lot of money just to reduce the cheating by a small percentage.

The New York Times had done an investigation in March 2012 and found that New Mexico has the highest rate of horse breakdowns and deaths in the country. Ruidoso Downs had the worst record of all from 2009 to 2011 with almost 14 incidents per 1,000 races.

The commission is also looking for increased funding to pay for more necropsies when horses die during a race. When a horse’s heart explodes, then the greedy owner’s performance-enhancing drugs have just gone too far.

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