Bute and Lasix. The two medications go together on the Maryland circuit, like Dun and Bradstreet. For much the same reason, apparently, theyre money in the bank.
Yesterday, for example, 63 of the 92 horses entered on the program at Bowie were to be treated with Lasix, 81 with Butazolidin. And that is par for the local course.
Butazolidin is phenylbutazone. Lasix is one of the trade names for furosemide. Bute is an anti-inflamatory agent. Lasix, a diuretic, reduces the incidence of internal bleeding and, from all accounts, helps horses suffering from respiratory problems.
Bute, a permissible substance, has been used widely at the track for years. Lasix is comparatively new, altough it was approved for racing purposes in Maryland about two years ago.
To the professional handicapper, the tremendous use of Lasix has always been suspect, the question being whether it might help a horse run faster than it normally can.
Not so, the veterinarians and the horsemen assured us. It really helps the horse stay sound for racing, they claimed.
Yet the number of bleeders among the thoroughbred population always has been extremely small, about one out of 100. The number of runners with respitatory ailments is higher, admittedly, but ttwo out of three, as are now being treated?
Nonsense. It seems a ridiculously high figure. The number of horses reportedly receiving Lasix in Maryland is an affront to an observer's good, old-fashioned horse sense.
Not that all the horses reported as running on Lasix in Maryland, about two-thirds, actually receive the drug.
"If I didn't list some of my sound horses as running on the stuff, they'd be claimed away from me tomorrow," is a trainer's daily comment. So the "B" for Bute and the "L" for Lasix has become a formalized way of racing life for the Maryland horse.
Now, however, scientific studies are finally being produced that are going to send many of the state's veterinarians and horsemen to the spit box. They are going to start choking on their own saliva, or certainly on their own words.
Drs. B. L. Roberts, J.W. Blake and Thomas Tobin of the University of Kentucky, writing in a recent issue of "Research Communications in Chemical Pathology and Pharmacology," concluded that their research showed "furosemide (Lasix) produced an 18-fold increase in urine volume . . . peaking in the first hour . . . urine output had returned to control levels by the fourth hour post-furosemide . . .
"As a practical matter," the report continued, "these results show that administration of furosemide to phenylbutazone-pretreated horses rapidly reduces urinary phnylbutazone levels to those which are not readily detected by routine screening methods (such as those presently employed in Maryland).
"The experiments show that if the use of furosemide is permitted urinary levels of phenylbutazone cannot be used to determined compliance with phnylbutazone medication rules. Similarly, rules limiting urinary phenylbutzone to certain levels may easily be complied with, not by reducing phenylbutazone dosages, but merely by administering furosemide prior to a race."
The implication of this research should be clear to any groom or hot walker. Lasix can dilute Bute to undectable amounts in the urine tests administered following a race. It naturally follows that Lasix can dilute ritalin, or methadone or any of the other prohibited stimulants, depressants, narcotics or local anesthetics to undetectable levels.
Thus Lasix can be a mask or a screen.
But that's not all. More scientific studies are on the way, and they will show that Lasix can have a pharmacologicial effect on the race horse which, in and of itself, can have a positive effect on the performance of the horse.
The Washington Post has learned that a forthcoming study will show that, while Lasix is not technically a stimulant, it is going to prompt a new classification among prohibited drugs. Its effect on a horse's hypertensiveness and fluid levels, the study says, is dramatic enough that a horse can give a better performance than it naturally could.
Lasix, propertly administered, can reduce the quantity of ritalin or methadone or other illegal of ritalin or methadone or other illegal stimulant showing in a horse's system by a ratio of 40 to one. Making it a beautiful mask. Lasix also, in and of itself, can be termed a "hop."
The veterinarians and horsemen who cheat for a living knew this years ago. It has been comparatively recently, however, that the honest individual has been given such a license to steal.
The horse player, meanwhile, has been drained of his money under false pretenses almost as fast as the Lasix treated horses had been urinating.