Politics & Government

Big Brown's trainer to testify on drug use in horse racing

Big Brown's trainer will be among witnesses called to testify next week at a congressional hearing on horse deaths, drugs and the industry's "special status" regarding gambling under federal law.

In announcing the June 19 hearing, the subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said the hearing was intended to help determine "whether the special status of the sport under federal law is still warranted."

The Interstate Horseracing Act allows off-track betting, which has evolved into simulcasting and advance-deposit wagering. In 2007, almost 90 percent of the $15.4 billion bet on horse racing came from simulcasting. Only about 10 percent actually was bet at the track on live races. The Interstate Horseracing Act is virtually the only federal regulation of racing; medication, testing, and even betting are regulated by individual states.

Lawmakers will question top veterinary researchers, breeders and trainers, including Big Brown's trainer, Rick Dutrow.

Dutrow has backed the use of anabolic steroids, which he said he gave to Big Brown before the Kentucky Derby. But the spotlight comes in the wake of the fatal breakdown of Eight Belles after the Derby, and Big Brown's dead-last finish in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday — after, Dutrow said, the horse had not received its monthly steroid injection in May.

According to the press announcement, the hearing will look at "commercial breeding practices that emphasize speed and precocity over durability, the prevalence of performance enhancing drugs and other medications, track surfaces, and maintenance of the tracks."

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., is the subcommittee's ranking Republican. The witness list includes several horse breeders and veterinarians, ESPN analyst Randy Moss, Dr. Mary Scollay, the new medical director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, and Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.