Out of all the sportsbooks available, the one most susceptible to cheating might have to be racebooks. The thing that is most interesting about rule-breaking in the world or horse racing is how ironically similar it is to what other athletes try to do get an edge in their respective sport; take prohibited substances.
Like other major sports leagues, who make their athletes take random drug tests to ensure that there is no consumption of performance enhancing drugs, the world of horse betting enforces an unforgettable regulation known as the 24-hour rule. The rule states that it is illicit to administer any drug or foreign substance, except for the anti-bleeder medication Salix (furosemide), within a 24-hour time period before the race begins. Unfortunately, this law is broken with such frequency that it can be better thought of as a guideline rather than a rule.
Albeit, many of the race day injections the horses receive are to help manage pain, stop bleeding, or even calm the horse down, they are nevertheless illegitimate. However, since many of the drugs administered are endogenous – a word which here means ‘originating from within the horse rather than from an outside source’ – they are particularly difficult to detect during post-race testing. This further complicates things for fans looking to bet on horse racing, especially since the notion that ‘it’s only cheating if you get caught’ runs rampant.
A prime example of this type of horse betting shenanigans is the investigation and prosecution conducted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania against veterinarians and horse trainers at the Penn National racetrack. Essentially, the US Attorney’s Office concluded that trainers ordered drugs, administered the drugs during an illicit time period, and even went as far as to backdate the records in order to avoid detection. Additionally, the defendants – who violated the trust of racebooks, had to submit falsified reports to the State Horse Racing Commission, withdrawing any reports that would have referenced the illicit drugs that were administered..
However, there do exist additional guidelines to help prevent this unsportsmanlike conduct. Nowadays there is a national model rule necessitating that the aforementioned Salix be administered by a third party. That third-party will likely be a veterinarian employed by the state racing commission. The rule is in place to help prevent the veterinarians that work for the trainers from visiting the stall of the horse on race day, ergo upholding the 24-hour rule. There’s no doubt that third-party Salix programs help deter the ubiquitous practice of doping horses. However, as racebook fans can imagine, it will not stop someone who has made up their mind and will stop at nothing to give their horse an advantage.
The thing that is most disheartening about the practice of doping horses is how widespread it is and how prominent figures in the horse betting community readily admit that the practice of cheating is not an isolated occurrence. Bill Casner, one of the most well-known Thoroughbred owners in the world had this to say about it.
“It would be incredibly naïve for anyone to think that this (PEDs) does not exist in our game,” Casner stated. “And especially at the high end because the high end is where all the money is at.”
Nevertheless, this news should not discourage horse betting fans from engaging in the sport. Rather it should motivate those same fans to do more research into which races have the best guidelines in order to ensure the least amount of tampering and ultimately, cheating.