Over the weekend, WFTV TV News reported that seven greyhounds recently tested positive for cocaine at Daytona Beach Kennel Club.
Incredibly, when the TV station went to the track and interviewed a local greyhound gambler named James Howell, he said he was not at all surprised. "It’s kind of disappointing that they do it, but it seems that is the nature of the dog racing."
Sadly, this is not the first time a racing greyhound has tested positive for cocaine. In fact, greyhounds have repeatedly tested positive for this narcotic at racetracks across the country.
In January 2010, greyhound trainer Harold Williams was fined $50 after a greyhound in his control named Kiowa Fly Lucia tested positive for cocaine at Mobile Greyhound Park. At the time, Harold Williams was working for the No Limits Sports kennel, which was owned by his brother Ronald Williams.
Over the past decade, racing greyhounds have also tested positive for cocaine at dog tracks in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Colorado.
Additionally, this problem does not appear to be isolated to the United States. In September 2010, the South Yorkshire Star reported that a greyhound named Droopys Arshavin tested positive for cocaine at Owlerton Stadium in the United Kingdom.
Even though these positives have occurred at tracks across the country and world, the problem does appear to be particularly severe in Florida. In July 2010 the Florida Times Union reported that two greyhounds tested positive for cocaine before racing at Orange Park Kennel Club in Jacksonville. In 2009, a greyhound trainer named Marvin Caballero was fined $1,000 and suspended for 10 days after a greyhound named Tempo Super Stud tested positive for cocaine at Palm Beach Kennel Club. A few years earlier in 2004, the Tampa Tribune reported that 119 greyhounds had tested positive for cocaine over a three year-period at tracks across the Sunshine State.
Why is this happening? While it is certainly possible that some greyhound trainers have given dogs cocaine in an effort to alter the outcome of races, it is also possible that these positives are due to cocaine being transferred to dogs accidentally by trainers who are using the drug. There is some evidence to support this position, and these positive test results often involve very small amounts of cocaine. For example, one of the dogs that recently tested positive at Orange Park kennel club in Jacksonville tested positive for 20 nanograms of benzoylecgonine, a cocaine metabolite. A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram. Further, the racetrack regulators whom I have spoken to on this issue claim that these positive results are most likely caused by human transference.
However, this is where things really get murky. Even if most of these cases are the result of human transference, it is entirely possible that even small amounts of cocaine -- a powerful stimulant -- could affect the outcome of a race. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, cocaine can result in "faster reaction times and diminished effects of fatigue."
Further, law enforcement officials and industry regulators have so far been reluctant to fully investigate these cases and definitively determine the source of these cocaine positives. In 2004, we asked then Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist to investigate greyhound cocaine positives and determine whether or not they were attempts to fix races. Unfortunately, he declined.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that either scenario is troubling. In fact, it is hard to say which is worse: that greyhounds are being given cocaine to alter the outcome of races, or that greyhounds are being handled by individuals who are using cocaine.
Either way, this is yet another example of the problems with dog racing. It is also a sad reminder of why we must continue fighting until the cruelty of greyhound racing is outlawed everywhere.