Harness racing has been experimenting for three years now with prerace testing of horses for drugs, and the results thus far indicate that a scandal like the Dancer's Image- Kentucky Derby affair, in which an illegally administered medication was found in the horse after the race, need never occur again. As Dr. Vernon L. Tharp, head of Ohio State University's veterinary clinic, where most of the research into prerace testing has taken place, says, "The thing that is so great about it is, you scratch the horse before anyone is hurt."
Prerace testing costs more (about $648 a night at Scioto Downs in Ohio, where tests were made under competitive conditions, as compared to about $170 for post-race examinations) because all the horses in each race are examined instead of only the winners and one or two others selected by lot, which is standard procedure in post-race testing.
The added cost seems a small price to pay if the tests prove satisfactory. Edward Hackett, executive vice-president of the U.S. Trotting Association, says, "The experiments show that prerace testing is at least as accurate as post-race testing." Certainly a prerace scratch is less painful than the bloody wound left by a post-race disqualification.
YOUR WIRE RECEIVED
In case you've been wondering how skiing and winter sports in general are holding up in Europe, the Palace Hotel in St. Moritz says it had to spend $1,500 on telegrams to reject requests for reservations for the Christmas and New Year's holidays alone.
It seems likely that Elvin Hayes of the San Diego Rockets is going to be the first rookie since Wilt Chamberlain to lead the NBA in scoring, and he also seems certain to be voted the NBA's Rookie of the Year. But another rookie, Wes Unseld of the vastly improved Baltimore Bullets, may be named the league's Outstanding Player. The paradox could come about because the Rookie of the Year honor is awarded by the basketball writers and sportscasters whereas the Outstanding Player is selected by the players themselves. Hayes is a talented, eye-catching performer, but those who play with and against Unseld think he may be the best team player to come into the league in years.
Canada, looking ahead to the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, is trying to find ways to reduce the wind resistance experienced by Alpine skiers in races. Aerodynamic studies of skiers have been conducted in a 6-by-9-foot wind tunnel under the direction of a team of engineers from Canada's National Aeronautical Establishment. Skiers wore racing equipment and faced simulated speeds up to 111 mph (though 70 mph is about the maximum reached in races). Drag was measured for more than a dozen racing positions, including the "egg," which supposedly is the fastest racing posture for high-speed skiers. Helmets, slacks, boots and skis were also tested. In some cases, fairings were attached to the leg and boot to improve streamlining, and protruding ski boot buckles were covered with tape.
Alan Raines, administrative head coach of Canada's national ski team, thinks the experiment has already produced a new racing position that could shave as much as two seconds per minute from times achieved with the egg, though the tests also reveal that each skier has his own optimum body position. Detailed results will be made known only to members of the Canadian Amateur Ski Association, but Raines says that one of the most important discoveries of the testing was the precise effect the position of a skier's hands and arms has. An arm flailing out to maintain balance can cause a measurable increase in drag and a commensurate decrease in speed.
The Canadian experiment takes on added significance when it is recalled that in the 1968 Olympics only 95/100 of a second separated first and fourth places in the women's downhill and only 88/100 of a second separated first and sixth in the men's slalom. Canadians, in particular, remember that their Nancy Greene, who won the women's giant slalom, missed a second gold medal in the slalom by 29/100 of a second.