Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why Do Racing Greyhounds Test Positive for Cocaine?

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.


  1. I wanted to point out that the reported levels of cocaine are actually part of a ratio, usually nanograms per milliliter. Although the amounts are still, they take on more significance when they are expressed in terms of amount of cocaine metabolite per thousandth of a liter of blood.

  2. Thanks for this additional information, Eric!

  3. The state of FL should change the rules when it come to investigating cocaine positive dogs. The possibilities are endless as to where the coke could have come from including lead outs,any state official that has access to the dogs before the race, a lick of the hand from a trainer from another kennel that wants revenge on the trainer, etc.

    Basically the rule states that the trainer of record is responsible for the dog being drug free or the trainer of record will receive the fine,suspension or revokation of their trainers license. The state has no reason to investigate with the rule written that way because they already have the guilty party- the trainer.

    That rule needs to be changed or the state will never investigate where the coke came from.


  4. This is beyond disturbing. It just proves that the low lifes that run this industry and anyone involved will stop at nothing when it comes to the almighty buck.

  5. It's absolutely ludicrous to comment on human transference of cocaine to racing dogs from their trainers. These dogs were purposefully given cocaine to affect the outcome of the finish lines.
    Any competent bio-chemist can attest to that. Additionally, I've personally witnessed a dog given cocaine. This poor dog jumped as high as it could continuously for about one hour without
    ever tiring. And shortly thereafter, he suffered from a bad case of diarrhea. Then calmly went to sleep. Now how sick is that! Any second rate prosecutor can secure a guilty verdict without wasting
    much taxpayers state expenses. God bless America, and me too.