Big Brown's Owners Adopt No-Drug Policy

International Equine Acquisitions Holdings (IEAH) Stables--the partnership that races Big Brown--has taken the first bold step in securing a no-drug policy in racing by announcing Monday that all its horses starting Oct. 1 will race without any medication, with the exception of Lasix, which trainer Rick Dutrow asked that they exclude because several of his horses are bleeders and require Lasix to race.

"We have decided to withdraw all of our horses from medication, except for Lasix," IEAH co-president Mike Iavarone told Blood-Horse. "We're beginning Oct. 1 because the horses should be clear of all substances by that time.

"In addition, we are willing to allow racetracks to do pre- and post-race testing on all our horses, and we will pay all expenses."

IEAH will issue a press release June 23 that reads in part: "While regulatory standards and indeed legislation may be required to resolve most of the controversial issues surrounding our sport, we believe our announcement today is a step in the right direction. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first racing stable in North America to make this commitment. We encourage others to follow our lead.

"Moreover, in the interest of fairness to the wagering public, we will request and strongly urge that race programs include data indicating which horses will run with medication, which will run free of medication. The programs should also indicate which owners/trainers decline to divulge this information."

Iavarone feels now is the time for someone to step up and take drastic action, and he challenges all owners to follow suit.

"I'm sick of people getting up there and saying 'no drugs, no drugs, no drugs,' and doing nothing about it," he said. "Everybody can put their hand up and say they want change, but at the end of the day, if the owners want change they can make change. They own the horses, they pay the bills. The trainers aren't going to tell the owners what they can and can't do. When I told Rick about this, I didn't give him a choice. I said, 'Rick, here's what I want to do. It's not open to a jury or for discussion.' I wanted to go without Lasix and ban everything, but Rick begged me to just give him Lasix, because he has certain horses he feels need it. In the future, we can even go with racetrack-approved use of Lasix. He didn't fight me or even take one step back. He said, 'Just give me Lasix; I don't need all that other garbage.'

"I want this information put in the program, because this way you'll know who's willing to take this step. I know I'll be out there on an island by myself, but I'm telling the racing world, not only are we removing our horses from medication, we want you to test them and we'll pay for it. If we fail a pre-race test we can't enter, and if we fail a post-race test we're disqualified. This way, no one can say it's a jurisdiction problem or a legislation problem. I told Rick it doesn't make sense for us to run horses and win races like the Kentucky Derby and be questioned because our horse is on steroids."

IEAH races Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Big Brown in partnership. The horse finished last in the Belmont Stakes after being eased. Dutrow had said all the horses in his stable, including Big Brown, received steroids monthly.

Iavarone vows to take an aggressive approach, and hopes that other owners will follow suit.

"One thing I can promise you, I'm going to go out there with a megaphone and stand behind this even if I'm on my own," he said. "I'm sure people will look at this and not do anything about it, but what they don't know is that I'm going to go on a campaign. I can't stand hypocrisy and there are hypocritical people in this game. All I'm doing is taking a forward step and challenging other owners. Let's see who really wants to play fair and let's see who just wants to win races. We find the best horses that are out there, and I can't believe the only reason why we have leading horses in their divisions is because they run on Winstrol.

"We have a lot of money behind us and huge support from our people, and we will spend money to campaign and expose the people who talk and don't do. And I've urged Rick to call all his owners to do the same and not make it look like an IEAH thing only. If they can do it in Dubai, and France, and England, you're trying to tell me you can't do it here? The only reason why they haven't done it here is because the states control everything. So, the owners have to step in. All I'm trying to say to the owners is, 'Hold on, you can't tell me that you have to wait for legislation.'" If the owners tell their trainers they want nothing in their horses and they're going to pay for drug tests, it can be stopped. And I will lobby for it like a son of a bitch. What's beautiful about it is I'm going to have an unbelievable forum: the Breeders' Cup. Oct. 1 we're off all medication, we're going to get tested well in advance of the Breeders' Cup, and we're going to have a bunch of horses running on those two days. And if there are 10 horses in the Classic and Big Brown is the only one that's listed in the program as being drug-free, I'm going to ask why."

Iavarone said he is willing to let the results of this action dictate how IEAH Stables is perceived and its future in the industry.

"What's going to happen if they don't see a drop in our performance? he asked. "One of our people asked, 'What if this winds up hurting us?' I said, 'If it hurts us and we go down, then we shouldn't have been up in the first place.'"

Dutrow said he has no problem running his horses drug-free, but wants there to be a level playing field.

"If all the drugs were taken out of the racing game and veterinarians were not allowed on the grounds, we would do so much better," Dutrow said. "If they would not allow vets on the grounds, period, our stable would continue to do very very well, probably do a lot better, because it would eliminate some of these trainers who do use drugs. You have to look at that part of the game, not what we're doing. We're not the bad guys. You never see our stable where we go off and win 15 in a row and then the next month you can't find our horses. We run a solid, steady outfit."

(Originally published at  

About the Author

Steve Haskin

Steve Haskin is Senior Contributor to The Blood-Horse magazine, sister publication to The Horse.

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