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May 18, 2012

The Humane Society of the United States Releases Statement on Trainer Doug O’Neill’s Horse Drugging Record

Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The Humane Society of the United States, issued the following statement about reports of Kentucky Derby winning trainer Doug O’Neill’s multiple violations of drugging horses:

“Doug O’Neill’s history of drugging horses is disturbing. According to published reports, over the past 14 years and in four different states, O’Neill has received in excess of a dozen violations issued by state racing commissions for using performance-enhancing drugs. Not surprisingly, horses he has trained have been too often subject to breakdowns that have endangered both the horses and jockeys. Despite this history, O’Neill continues to train at tracks around the country, and this weekend Americans will watch as he attempts to win the Preakness Stakes with I’ll Have Another. The drugging of horses in this sport demands immediate reform. Congress should act swiftly to pass the Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act to ban race day medication and performance-enhancing drugs.”

Facts on horse racing:

•    Drugs are often given to race horses to enhance their performance and mask injuries while no federal regulations or single governing body effectively police these practices. The use of drugs results in a culture that views horses as disposable athletes.
•    After a series of high-profile breakdowns, such as Barbaro and Eight Belles, the horse racing industry’s attempts at self-regulation have failed. A March 24 New York Times story reported that an average of 24 horses die each week at U.S. tracks, 3,600 horses died while training or racing during the past three years, and jockeys are injured and killed at alarming rates.
•    Horseracing lacks a national governing body. There are 38 racing jurisdiction all with different sets of rules and penalties, causing ambiguity among states and allowing violators to simply move on to the next state without punishment.
•    Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Kentucky, and Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, introduced the Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act, H.R. 1733/S. 886, which bans race day medication and racing horses under the influence of performance-enhancing drugs, requires stiff penalties for doping racehorses including a “three strikes you’re out” rule, and requires drug testing of race horses by independent, accredited labs.

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Media Contact: Stephanie Twining, 301-258-1491, stwining@humanesociety.org

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