Commentary

Un-American

Updated: June 2, 2008, 3:21 PM ET
By Bill Finley | Special to ESPN.com

Ah, those poor na´ve Japanese. A horse named Casino Drive has come here from the Far East to run in the Belmont Stakes and the only thing he will be on Saturday is hay, oats, water and, maybe, a little sushi. You see, that's the way they do things in Japan, where, and I'm not making this up, horses aren't allowed to run on drugs.

Actually, they aren't allowed to run on drugs anywhere but here in the U.S. and in Canada. They tell you it's a better, purer game in those other places and that the best horse wins, not the horse on the best drugs. Worse yet, when they catch someone with illegal drugs they suspend them for more than a day and a half and they don't let the stable run, business as usual, under the assistant trainer's name. Have you ever heard such garbage?

They just don't get it. Don't they understand that 99.4 percent of all horses racing in America are terrible bleeders and would never get to the starting gate without Lasix, exactly the reason every horse running in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness raced on the stuff. How do they even race in places like Japan and England and Dubai? Don't they know that drugs have so many benefits and we'd never get by without them?

Get this, these goobers don't even race on steroids. I can't wait to see this puny little thing from Japan come out and get his doors blown off by some US behemoth who looks like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens with four legs, a mane and a tail. Worse yet, should Big Brown win the Belmont and the Triple Crown, somebody from overseas is sure to say it was because of his steroid habit.

In fact, they're already at it. Here's what English racing commentator Brough Scott had to say the other day about Big Brown's steroid use: "The facts are that on the same day that we celebrate our Derby at Epsom, our racing cousins over the water are asking the world to applaud a performance by an athlete that would be immediately invalidated for anabolic steroids in every other major racing territory."

In Australia, they'll hit a guy hard for steroid use. It's pitiful what they'll do to some poor trainer whose just trying to do the right thing by his horses. Just ask trainer Darren Smith, who ran afoul of Australian racing officials and got caught giving a horse steroid known as trenbolone. They suspended him for 18 months. Talk about your cruel and unusual punishment.

These people are living in fantasyland. We dope the living you know what out of our horses and the benefits are obvious. Horses race longer than ever, are more durable than ever and never get hurt. Then we send them off to the breeding shed and they produce the next generation of healthy, robust horses that can run all day, race 35 times a year and keep the breed strong. Thank goodness the industry here has taken the anything-goes approach that it has. Imagine a sport where a horse that is bleeding, is lethargic or is sore or needs a rest actually needs to be turned out and can't be given a quick fix.

I was so amazed that anyone would run a horse without drugs that I had to get some answers. The Japanese actually claim that Casino Drive will be fine without some juice.

"We don't use any of this when we race in Japan," said Nobutaka Tada, racing manager for Casino Drive's owner Hidetoshi Yamamoto. "We don't need it. We will give a horse medication when they need it, but he doesn't need anything at all. If he loses the race it will be because he got outrun. It won't have anything to do with what medications anybody is using."

So, I guess he's saying his horse doesn't need drugs, will race just fine without drugs and can beat these other horses running on drugs?

That's downright Un-American.

• Bill Finley is an award-winning horse racing writer whose work has also appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated.
• To contact Bill, email him at wnfinley@aol.com