An event well worth noting—for a number of good reasons—took place at Syracuse University last week. It was called the Empire State Games—in effect, New York State's own cut-down version of the Olympics. Remarkably, the Games drew 4,817 participants, all legal residents of New York. That total, believe it or not, made the Empire State Games the largest Olympic-type amateur competition ever held in the U.S.—including the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles (which had 1,408 participants), the 1932 Winter Games at Lake Placid (307) and the recent National Sports Festival at Colorado Springs (2,165).
Even more significant than the number of athletes in Syracuse is the fact that they were only the cr�me de la cr�me of the Empire State competition—finalists selected after a series of statewide eliminations that began late last spring involving 50,000 participants. They ranged in age from eight to 76 and they competed in a 21-sport menu of events, Olympic in flavor, ranging from water polo to Greco-Roman wrestling, from team handball to field hockey.
Such a massive grass-roots effort to inspire wide and intensive interest in the sometimes esoteric events of the Olympics—and to spotlight potential Olympians while they are still in embryonic form—is, of course, routine behind the Iron Curtain. But this is the first time anything of this scope has been attempted in the U.S. True, the Empire State Games were not cheap: they cost $625,000, which was appropriated by the state legislature. Yet it is hard to think of a better way to spend tax money on sports than through a program that involves so many thousands in such a variety of games. It is said that last week's event was only the first of a series of such games to be held in New York. With any luck, it is also only the first of a similar series in all of the other 49.
Over the years, the use of the drug Lasix, a diuretic used in sports primarily to control bleeding in horses, has attracted little attention at the nation's racetracks. However, it has been suspected of masking other drugs, and Maryland trainer Ray Vogelman Jr. feels it is high time to determine whether Lasix indeed does have this effect. "They're sure using something in Maryland," Vogelman says. "They're covering up something; something is wrong when I can take a good horse to New York to win a $25,000 pot, then come down here and have the horse's socks knocked off in a race with an $8,000 purse." The use of Lasix is permitted in Maryland but prohibited in New York.
Dr. Kenneth Fox, a Maryland veterinarian, disagrees with Vogelman, calling his suspicion about Lasix' masking powers "ridiculous and a hell of an accusation." Fox says, "The postrace urine tests are so accurate that drugs can be detected even with a 40-1 dilution."
Robert O. Baker, an owner of standardbreds and thoroughbreds, recently completed a study of the use of drugs in racing for the Illinois Hooved Animal Humane Society, which was skeptical about the use of Lasix. "According to Dr. Robert L. Hamlin, in a paper presented before the American Association of Equine Practitioners," he wrote, "one of the factors for...increased performance is that many trainers deprive a horse of water and feed for a good period of time before a race, and this practice combined with the administration of Lasix can cause a horse to run mildly dehydrated, and thus, the horse is carrying less weight.... Dr. Hamlin further stated that it is ludicrous to consider that the compound is used only to prevent [bleeding]. It is obvious to me that the compound is given either because the veterinarian or the trainer or both consider the compound to facilitate performance."
As for Lasix' ability to mask other drugs, Baker writes, "According to...authorities, Lasix will mask not only Butazolidin but even many other more dangerous drugs. The University of Kentucky, for example, found that Lasix can make the presence of powerful drugs like Methadone (narcotic analgesic similar to morphine) virtually undetectable."
Until the racing industry determines the truth about these important matters, its product will never be completely above suspicion.