A MYSTERY HALF-SOLVED
Charges against five of the six thoroughbred trainers whose horses allegedly tested positive for cocaine after races at California tracks last fall and winter (SI, Feb. 27) were dropped by the California Horse Racing Board last week for lack of evidence. CHRB executive secretary Leonard Foote said that after consulting with chemists, pharmacologists and attorneys, the board determined that it could not establish that the horses involved had been given cocaine.
The CHRB's drug-testing firm, Truesdail Laboratories of Tustin, Calif., originally told the CHRB that the six urine samples in question contained traces of ecognine methyl ester (EME), one of the two metabolites produced when cocaine passes through an animal's system. The CHRB took this finding to mean that the horses had been given cocaine, and brought charges against their trainers—D. Wayne Lukas, Laz Barrera, Barrera's son Albert, Bryan Webb, Anthony Hemmerick and Roger Stein. But the CHRB subsequently learned that the quantities of EME present in five of the samples were so minute that they would be dismissed as inconclusive evidence of cocaine use if found in humans. The level of EME in the sixth sample, the one taken from Stein's horse, was five times higher, according to the CHRB. The primary cocaine metabolite, benzoyl ecognine, did not show up in any of the six samples, suggesting that, in any case, cocaine probably did not pass through the horses' systems.
Although the CHRB dismissed the charges against all the trainers except Stein, who was handed a six-month suspension, the cocaine controversy is not fully resolved. For one thing, the traces of EME found in the six samples raise the possibility that the samples were ever-so-slightly contaminated with cocaine—perhaps by handlers who used the drug—after being taken from the horses. Further, Stein, who is appealing his suspension, has filed a lawsuit seeking $25 million in damages from Truesdail for a variety of alleged wrongdoings, including laboratory malpractice.
At its executive board meetings in Des Moines last weekend, the U.S. Olympic Committee selected Salt Lake City as its nominee to host the 1998 Winter Games. Displaying unusual foresight, the USOC said it will require Salt Lake to begin construction of a speed skating oval and a bobsled/luge run in the next 18 months and to provide a permanent training center for American athletes as soon as possible.
Many observers thought that Anchorage, a losing bidder for the USOC nomination along with Denver and Reno- Lake Tahoe, might have had the best chance of getting the '98 Games because of the support it has built within the International Olympic Committee during unsuccessful efforts to land the 1992 and '94 Winter Games. But the USOC board considered Alaska too isolated to be a winter training center and was impressed by Salt Lake City's compact venues and superb organization.
The IOC will choose the '98 host city in two years. Nagano, Japan, which has strong financial backing and a full-time staff of more than 20 already in place, seems to be the early favorite. IOC voters are expected to take into account the fact that the Orient hasn't hosted a Winter Olympics since 1972, when Sapporo won out over three other candidates, including Salt Lake City.
CAUTION: WET PAINT
In the film Field of Dreams, the Shoeless Joe Jackson character looks around him at a lush, impeccably manicured baseball diamond built smack in the middle of a cornfield and asks, "Is this heaven?" Actually, it's Dyersville, Iowa, and making the diamond look so magnificent required some tricks.