Doped for profit: Why greyhound racing may have a drug problem
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) —
CBS12 Investigates uncovered the inhumane and illegal actions taken to get into the winner's circle.
We found greyhounds racing after testing positive for various steroids and cocaine.
The practice of using performance enhancing drugs is against the rules in many sports including greyhound racing.
"AND THEY’RE OFF!"
Number three in white, a brindle greyhound, breaks from the pack in race seven at the Palm Beach Kennel Club.
Edging out the competition on the leader board, Atascocita Edge comes in 3rd.
Moments before the race started, our camera captured the state inspector collecting a urine sample to test Edge for performance enhancing drugs.
The inspector documented the sample and walked away.
CBS12 Investigates uncovered state records that show the trainer of Atascocita Edge is under investigation after he and five of her other dogs tested positive for various drugs, including muscle relaxers and heart stimulants.
Drugs, veterinarian Dr. Dale Porcher said should not be prescribed to a racing canine.
"I think the dogs were given that to get a competitive advantage," said Dr. Porcher.
"If you truly needed those drugs to exist you wouldn't be able to compete as a competitive athlete."
We caught up with Edge's handler and asked why the dog is racing.
He told us we need to speak to the state racing commission.
The State’s Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering recently held a hearing for Edge’s trainer, Areci Robledo.
She admitted she knew several of her greyhounds tested positive for banned substances over the past year, but denied any involvement.
"Did you receive notice that the department found drugs in these dogs?" a State Investigator inquired.
"I did last year," responded Robledo through an interpreter.
Robledo said two of the six dogs under investigation are still racing.
According to Florida law, dogs can race until a formal hearing is held.
“PROFITS AHEAD OF ANIMAL WELFARE”
Greyhound advocates like Carey Theil with Grey2K explain it's all about money.
"This shows the trainers are putting their profits ahead of animal welfare," said Theil.
Florida's 12 dog tracks took in about $227 Million in bets from July 2016 to June 2017 which is half the amount wagered a decade earlier.
The State says it now spends more money regulating the greyhound industry than it makes in tax revenue.
Part of that regulation includes drug testing.
State records show, in the past ten years, 104 greyhounds at the Palm Beach Kennel Club tested positive for illegal drugs including steroids and cocaine.
"It is clear the greyhound industry has a drug problem," added Theil.
"We are not protecting these wonderful dogs," said Jeri Caprio of the Horses and Hounds Charitable Foundation.
Caprio rescued two abused racing greyhounds.
Her charity is calling for more regulation because she says many greyhounds that are drugged are discarded when they don't perform.
"It's horrible," Caprio explained. "It's like asking a dog to die."
A staggering 367 dogs died at Florida greyhound tracks since 2013.
That's why forty states banned greyhound racing.
Florida may be following suit.
Just last week, State Senator Tom Lee filed a constitutional amendment to ban greyhound racing in Florida.
"There is growing recognition that many of these animals live in inhumane conditions, a reality that is out of line with the moral standard of Floridians," Senator Lee said. "For over a decade, the Legislature has fought to end greyhound racing, but special interests derail the issue every year. Now is our opportunity to finally end the mistreatment of greyhounds, reduce the amount of gambling in our state, and restore community values."
The amendment would change current state law, in which the tracks must run races in order to keep open their more-lucrative poker rooms.
The Palm Beach Kennel Club provided this response based on the findings of our investigation:
"The State of Florida racing regulators enforce laws designated to ensure the integrity of pari-mutuel racing, as well as, the welfare of the greyhounds that race at the tracks. Palm Beach Kennel Club takes its responsibilities for greyhound welfare very seriously. Although Palm Beach Kennel Club does not own the greyhounds that run at the track, it has rules and contract provisions in place that require the kennel operators to follow proper track and state procedures. If guilty, violators will lose their licenses and their right to race and will be imposed penalties."