The History of Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Thoroughbred Racing
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Imprint: The University Press of Kentucky
Sales Date: 08/08/2023
In a mere twelve months, between May 2020 and May 2021, horse racing's most recognizable face—Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert—had five horses that failed postrace drug tests. Among those was the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit. While the incident was a major scandal in the Thoroughbred racing world, it was only the latest in a series of drug-related infractions among elite athletes. Stories about systemic rule-breaking and "doping culture"—both human and equine—have put world-class athletes and their trainers under intense scrutiny. Each newly discovered instance of abuse forces fans to question the participants' integrity, and in the case of horse racing, their humanity.
In Unnatural Ability: The History of Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Thoroughbred Racing, Milton C. Toby addresses the historical and contemporary context of the Thoroughbred industry's most pressing issue. While early attempts at boosting racehorses' performance were admittedly crude, widespread legal access to narcotics and stimulants has changed the landscape of horse racing, along with athletic governing bodies' ability to regulate it.
With the sport at a critical turning point in terms of doping restrictions and sports betting, Toby delivers a comprehensive account of the practice of using performance-enhancing drugs to influence the outcome of Thoroughbred races since the late nineteenth century. Paying special attention to Thoroughbred racing's purse structure and its reliance on wagering to supplement a horse's winnings, Toby discusses how horse doping poses a unique challenge for gambling sports and what the industry and its players must do to survive the pressure to get ahead.
1. The Death of Dr. Riddle
2. "Doc" Ring and the Modern Era of Doping
3. The Injection
4. Rule 162
5. The Drug Czar Goes Racing
6. Reports from the Field
7. US v. Parke
8. The Spit Box
9. "Those Bastards"
10. The Joint Board
11. The Not-So-Absolute Insurer Rule
12. The TRPB and the Defection of Dr. Kater
13. The Derby and the Doctor
14. Permissive Medication and the "E" in Ped
15. The Steroid Derby
16. The Indictments and the Wiretaps
17. The Balkanization of American Racing
18. Legislating Integrity?
19. Genetics, the Wealth Gap, and the Myth of the Level Playing Field
Unnatural Ability is a seminal work in our understanding of the past, present, and future of performance-enhancing drugs in horse racing. Milt Toby takes a complex subject and masterfully breaks it down for his audience, exploring topics ranging from 'dope' in the early 20th century to the evolution of testing to Lasix and more in the 21st century. This is a must-read for anyone who loves the sport and wants to learn more about this important issue.~Jennifer Kelly, award-winning author of Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown and The Foxes of Belair: Gallant Fox, Omaha, & the Quest for the Triple Crown
Impeccably researched, Milt Toby's Unnatural Ability:The History of Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Thoroughbred Racing is a valuable addition to the equine industry's library. By creating a cogent narrative of PED use in horse racing, Toby organizes and catalogs the persistent omnipresence of doping, and he does not hesitate to express how that persistence has precipitated the loss of interest in and/or disapproval of the Sport of Kings. Vital. Impactful.~Becky Ryder, director of the Keeneland Library
All sports face the threat of chicanery, and Thoroughbred racing has the added complication that the carriers of illicit medications are innocent victims themselves. Milt Toby's prodigious research has produced an insightful review of villainy and the persistent efforts of those who have maintained a viable sport/industry embraced by the public over many eras. Continuing security of the sport will require ever-evolving efficiency of enforcement, such as that proposed by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act.~Edward L. Bowen, Eclipse Award winner and author of 22 books about Thoroughbred racing
Unnatural Ability is a fascinating, beautifully researched, and much-needed look at the long history of drugs in horse racing, written by an award-winning master of his craft. Toby takes us on an absorbing historical trip from the 1890s into the 21st century—a journey tracing the uneasy, too often illegal association between drugs and racing, and that includes some of the game's biggest names. Disheartening yet hopeful, Unnatural Ability draws on lessons from the past to help the sport deal with an uncertain future. It is an absolute must-read for anyone who cares about our Sport of Kings.~Mary Simon, multiple Eclipse Award winner
Thoroughbred racing faces an existential crisis as the 21st century unfolds: an ongoing history of drugging issues that lead fans increasingly to question its credibility. If the Sport of Kings is to continue as a viable sport, it must learn from its history and deal with those issues. It is difficult to imagine a better starting point for this process than Milton Toby's exhaustively researched masterwork Unnatural Ability: The History of Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Thoroughbred Racing.~Mark Shrager, Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award-winning author of The First Kentucky Derby: 13 Black Jockeys, One Shady Owner, and the Little Red Horse That Wasn't Supposed to Win
It was philosopher George Santayana who declared that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." If the Sport of Kings is to learn from its long history (and, it is to be hoped, avoid repeating its failures to deal with drugging issues in an ever higher-tech environment), it is difficult to imagine a better starting point than Milton Toby's exhaustively researched masterwork Unnatural Ability: A History of Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Thoroughbred Racing.~Mark Shrager, Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award-winning author of The First Kentucky Derby: 13 Black Jockeys, One Shady Owner, and the Little Red Horse That Wasn't Supposed to Win
In documenting the long history of doping in horse racing, Milt Toby outlines a sport in which the cheaters, time and again, have been several steps ahead of investigators. Toby's work serves as a reminder that for racing to survive in the 21st century, the cheaters who have corrupted the sport and endangered the lives of horses and jockeys have to be stopped.~Frank Angst, features editor at BloodHorse
Milt Toby's book comes at a crucial time for racing, and so many passages could have just as easily been written about the modern discourse around doping and drug detection. As with all his projects, he has waded through the records and given us the facts. If you believe the old axiom that history is the best teacher, this volume should be required reading for anyone interested in the integrity of the sport.~Natalie Voss, multiple Eclipse Award winner and editor-in-chief of Paulick Report