Is Big Brown getting a big boost in his bid for the Triple Crown?
While trainer Rick Dutrow isn't breaking any horse racing laws by giving Big Brown and his other horses a shot of the powerful anabolic steroid Winstrol once a month, the nation's foremost doping expert says "anabolic steroids are for performance enhancement.
"That's the beginning and end of it," Dr. Don Catlin, who also created the UCLA Olympic drug testing lab, told the Daily News.
Dutrow said Wednesday at Belmont that he is still miffed that his admission of Winstrol use is drawing attention. The veterinarian who treats Dutrow's horses said that one of Winstrol's uses was "to help muscles to get stronger.
"Most people use it (in horses) as a muscle-building drug," said Dr. Gregory Bennett, a practicing veterinarian at Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga. "If it's not overused, I think there is value. From my perspective, I wouldn't say it's race-enhancing. It's more for the stress of the race and to induce appetite."
Stanozolol, Winstrol's formal name, is a long-acting drug, according to Catlin. Catlin has spent the last four years sharing his knowledge with the equine community. He points out that the expertise and years of research on doping in humans "doesn't exist for the equine species."
"But I can't think of any reason to have (Stanozolol for use in horses). It's a foreign drug, exogenous. If it's there, it's only there - as far as I'm concerned - for doping," Catlin said. "But there are people who'll say they need steroids for general health and benefit of the horse. I just disagree."
When asked if one shot of Winstrol a month would enhance performance, Catlin alluded to Ben Johnson, the disgraced Canadian sprinter who tested positive for Stanozolol after winning the gold medal in the 100-meter dash at the 1988 Olympics. Johnson was disqualified, and the gold was awarded to Carl Lewis.
"According to Ben Johnson, it had been 30 days since he last used (Stanozolol) when he got busted. I would suggest, yes (it enhances performance). It's just like in humans. It reminds me very much of 25 years ago. There were people saying anabolic steroids don't do anything for humans. It took awhile to get that notion killed. All you had to do was take one look at Johnson and his muscular development. Now it's history - no one would dare to say that," said Catlin.
The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium - the organization that recommends policy, including rules on drug use, to the racing industry - allows for the use of four anabolic steroids, including Winstrol, for therapeutic use. So far, 10 of the 38 states that have horse racing have adopted that policy. Those 10 do not include the Triple Crown states Kentucky, Maryland and New York.
Dutrow told The News that he had not injected Big Brown with Winstrol on the 15th of this month, but would likely administer it to the colt within "another 10 days or so," or about a week before the Belmont.
"You're allowed to give horses Winstrol in New York," said Dutrow. "If we had to stop (using) it today, it wouldn't hurt us in any kind of way. I'm sure our horses would run the same way. I just don't imagine that it's an issue.
"If I can use it I will, if I can't use it, I won't. Simple as that."