Thinking about steroids

So Mr. or Ms. Anonymous has started a little conversation with his declaration that Allen Jerkens uses steroids on his horses. Fellow TBA writer Frank of That’s Amore Stable confirms this practice with a link to a 2007 New York Times article, written by Bill Finley, in which Jerkens explains his use of steroids on his horses:

“I think steroids can get overused,” the Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens
said. “But if you use them once in a while with a horse, I think it’s O.K. Sure,
I use them occasionally. It helps build up muscle and it helps when a horse
hasn’t been eating well.” (New York Times)

Compare this with Richard Dutrow’s recent declaration. He acknowledged that his horses get a shot of Winstrol, a legal anabolic steroid, on the fifteenth of every month. As reported in the Baltimore Sun (thanks, Railbird), Dutrow was asked why he uses the drug.

“You’d have to ask the vet what the purpose of that is,” he said. “I don’t know
what it does. I just like using it.”

You like using it, but you don’t know what it does? Why would you like using it if you don’t know what it does? You must see something?

“No,” he said. “I don’t.”

Do you see something from not using it?

“No,” he said. (Baltimore Sun)

I acknowledge my own bias for Jerkens. It’s harder for me to believe bad things about him than it is about Dutrow, against whom my bias turns into prejudice. Admitted.

That said, it seems to me that are three important differences in what these trainers are saying.

The first is that Jerkens says that he uses steroids “once in a while” with a horse, compared to Dutrow, whose horses get them once a month.

The second is that Dutrow’s vets administer Winstrol to “his horses”—implying all of them?—while Jerkens gives them to specific horses.

The third is that Jerkens indicates that he uses them in specific situations, for a specific reason, while Dutrow admits (credibly?) that he doesn’t know what steroids do, or why horses get them.
Even as I type, I feel like an apologist for a giant of racing history who has trained so many horses with whom I’ve fallen in love—Society Selection, Teammate, Duchess of Rokeby, Miss Shop—that I know that my objectivity is in serious question. Maybe there’s no distinction between these two trainers, and maybe the use of steroids in horses under any racing circumstances is wrong; current opinion certainly supports the latter, and I am all for creating a fair playing field in which all the participants can compete without having to keep up with those who are artificially enhanced. As Railbird recently expressed to me, perhaps the second greatest tragedy of the Kentucky Derby is that the steroids-devoid Eight Belles was chasing the steroids-enhanced Big Brown. Good for Larry Jones that he chose not to inject his filly, but one can only imagine wistfully who might have crossed the wire first had Big Brown, too, been running clean.

It is, I suppose, Dutrow’s cavalier attitude about his practice that gnaws at me; if he were more thoughtful, more reflective about his practices, perhaps it would be easier for me to hear him as anything more than a guy who delights in his maverick status, who is outrageous for outrageousness’ sake. As Frank points out, steroid use is perfectly legal. I guess I just wish that as Dutrow acknowledges that he takes advantage of this accepted resource, rather than doing so in a brash, nearly contemptuous manner, he would reveal the sort of shrewdness and intelligence that it takes to have achieved the success that he’s had.

Clearly, Dutrow doesn’t care about the public’s opinion of him, and really, why should he? Who needs us, after all? But when people suggest that we overlook Dutrow’s misdeeds and focus on the greater glory of a possible undefeated Triple Crown winner, is it too much to ask that Dutrow help us to do that, instead of continually providing us with reasons to question him?

4 thoughts on “Thinking about steroids

  1. Adverb swap: Good for Larry Jones that he chose not to inject his filly, but one can only imagine winstrolly who might have crossed the wire first had Big Brown, too, been running clean.Sometimes, even for a Dutrow fan, I am embarrassed by his mouth. I’m sure his dad would be, too.Rick seems to me some parenting gone amiss.

  2. While your temptation to distinguish between HAJ and RD is understandable, and accurate to a point, the notion that Jerkens doesn’t use medications unless they are necessary is, I’m afraid, naive.He has used worse drugs than steroids on his horses, although some might attempt to rationalize that behavior by arguing that others were crossing the line with impunity at the same time, and Jerkens was simply trying to stay competitive.I don’t accept that argument, as there are plenty of trainers who have never crossed the line, although I certainly understand the pressure to do so.

  3. After yet another humiliating defeat last night at the Crewe and Nantwich by-election-rumours are circulating that Labour will put “Wee Gordon” BROWN on “Winstrol”

  4. Hi Teresa,I’ve been working in the racing industry for nearly 40 years now in a number of capacities. Started at the bottom and worked my way up to become a Jockey. Retired from racing now, I’ve recently returned to the track to pony horses. Can’t stay away, racing gets into the blood. There is a gigantic difference between Jerkens and Dutrow. Jerkens is a horseman. You pretty much should just follow your instincts on that one, because you’re not missing a thing. Many trainers from the lowly bush tracks to the major racing circuits throughout the U.S. are using Winstrol, or another of the legal steroids. I don’t think I know of one other horseman that’d give that drug or any other drug to a horse in their care, if they didn’t know what the hell it were used for. I can’t imagine anyone using any drug without having some idea of what they could expect from the drug, and it’s long term effects, if any. Winstrol is a useful drug when used properly for the appropriate condition. Dutrow said, he didn’t know what it was for, but it makes their coats shiny! Lord help us! Yes folks we have a whole new use for the tongue tie if we’d care to implement it to Dutrow’s big mouth, he sure does seem to need one! He’s an embarrassment to this industry by making such public statements. He should know this drug can be degenerative to the bones! Could also affect his horse’s potential for being a productive stallion, and affect his ability for passing on some of his finer qualities. I’d like to know what those qualities are though, less the pharmaceutical involvement. All Dutrow proved to me is that anyone at all can get lucky, even successful. I give Dutrow no credit at all for getting Big Brown this far! I’d be willing to bet that his exercise rider, Michelle, and Big Brown’s groom have more to do with his conditioning. But I think a good horse is dangerous in anybody’s hands, and Dutrow proves this in spades. JMHO. Because a drug is legal, doesn’t mean a person should use it! I think most trainers have used steroids for one or more of their horses in training for one reason or other. I’ve never known one to use it routinely on their entire barn, as a matter of course in their training regimen! Stupid is all that comes to mind! Jerkens is a fine horseman with good ethics, and many may disagree with me too about that, but I’m with you Teresa, I think his record speaks volumes. He’s one of the best there’s been! Dutrow’s reputation speaks loudly about him too, . . . now that he’s removed all doubt about it! Nope, I don’t mean in a good way either! LOL! Enjoyed your post very much Teresa!

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