Furosemide, or Lasix, is used, ostensibly, to control pulmonary bleeding in rapidly moving racehorses. But it is also a powerful diuretic that causes the horse to shed water weight (and helps flush the system) prior to the race. To the rest of the world (excepting Canada), U.S. horseracing is derelict in allowing raceday Lasix (in practically all starters). But according to American trainers, the rest of the world is wrong.

Prominent trainer Dale Romans starts with this premise (Paulick Report, 9/13/12): “Racing causes EXERCISE INDUCED pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH, respiratory bleeding) in 100% of horses.” So, for the good of the horse, it must be controlled. Enter Lasix, which, Roman says, decreases the incidence and severity of this “natural” condition and “has no harmful effects.” See, the drug is therapeutic, indeed humane. And, notes Romans, since all trainers have access to it, none are afforded a competitive advantage.

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Prohibiting Lasix, in Romans’ estimation, would lead to methods antithetical to equine welfare – like withholding water prior to a race: “It is my firm belief that one of the worst abuses that can be done to the racing horse is to ban Lasix.” Adds his colleague Rick Violette (DRF, 8/11/11), “Horses bleed. That is a fact. To force an animal to race without it is premeditated, borderline animal abuse.”

What Romans and Violette conveniently ignore, however, is that the level of natural bleeding that adversely affects the Thoroughbred, a 3 or 4 on a 1-4 scale, is rare and bleeding through the nostrils even rarer (perhaps 1%). So to say it’s more therapeutic than performance-enhancing is dubious.

But what if Romans is right about EIPH being innate (and painful) to the racing horse? If so, then the animal abuse that Violette speaks of is at racing’s very core: Horsemen are ever eager to proclaim racing as innocuous – horses are born to run, love to run; the ubiquitous whip is but a painless “guide.” But here, according to Romans et al., the fundamental act (racing) causes equine suffering (through bleeding). Is there another sport on the planet whose primary physical motion is inherently painful? Absurd.