Apparently, we silly bloggers (or pundits, if you will) are over-reacting. When trainer Jeff Mullins is caught red-handed giving Air Power via oral syringe to Gato Go Win in the detention barn at Aqueduct, it’s not technically cheating—because saintly Michael Matz endorses this over-the-counter product which promises it “won’t test positive in any race or show jurisdiction”? The race day medication rules in New York are crystal clear, yet we should believe the oft-caught cheater Mullins when he publically declares it was an “honest mistake”? Kind of reminds me of the story of the boy who cried “wolf!”—if you do it often enough, no one will believe you are sincere. And, lo, the list of Mullins’ previous infractions is lengthy, as are the first-hand accounts of associates and others who attest to him being ethically-challenged.
As an educator, I regularly deal with the ethical issue of “cheating”—particularly this time of year, as final exams and papers are right around the corner. Admittedly, we are not talking about the same beast, but fundamentally there is a clear boundary that exists in both instances. “Cheating” does not necessary entail “nefarious intent.” Often times, cheating is a matter of desperation, but I’ve come to realize that for some students it is a matter of doing so because it’s easy, and they can get away with it. Rules don’t apply to them, mostly because their parents instilled in them, either deliberately or inadvertently, a sense of entitlement. Yet, when cornered, they often plead ignorance—“you never told us that cutting and pasting passages from Wikipedia into our paper wasn’t allow.” Unfortunately, I’m serious. So, Mullins figured because he gained access to the barn carrying the syringe and medication it was perfectly acceptable to use it. Astonishing!
Most disturbingly in the aforementioned criticism aimed at bloggers this week, because we discuss—passionately—this type of situation on the blogosphere, somehow we are contributing to horse racing’s public relations problem? I have a real problem with that kind of thinking.
When I began this blog two years ago, it was because I had no other outlet to discuss my passion for horse racing, as none of my friends, family or colleagues has more than a passing interest in the sport. You, dear reader, you are my people! If you have discovered this blog within the abyss that is the World Wide Web, then we are of like mind—we are passionate about what was once known as the "Sport of Kings." We can respectfully disagree on specific issues, yet we never presume to stifle the right to put forth educated opinions or comments. That’s the beauty of public discourse in this technological age.
Horse racing doesn’t need we bloggers to give it a black eye. Through its archaic attitudes and insular fiefdoms, general (and pervasive) lack of respect for horseplayers and fans through high take-out rates and lack of free access to the most basic past performance information, tolerance of medicinal abuse by successful trainers backed by wealthy hedge fund investors and disbarred lawyers convicted of scamming clients, stories of horrific animal abuse by prominent owners and collusive tolerance for broken down claimers sent quietly to slaughter—the sport is doing a fine job of self-destruction.
As you might infer from this diatribe, I’m angry and disgusted. Nay, I’m officially pissed. Why do we tolerate cheaters and abusers, those who openly taunt the rules? Does it really all come down to the power of the all-mighty dollar? If so, then I must concur with my fellow TBA blogger Patrick over at Handride, and say I’m out.
That said, I am ever the optimist, so I still hold out hope that—before breeching the event horizon and officially imploding, going the way of the dinosaur as a relic of history—someone, or more specially a group of people, will step forward and do what needs to be done. No, not paying lip-service to doing the right thing, but officially taking the bull by the horns, biting the bullet, by hook or by crook—or whatever tired idiom you wish to use—and right this sinking ship.
If only I didn’t love this damn sport so much...