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?