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42. Newspapers And Horse Doping (1904)

42. Newspapers And Horse Doping (1904)

Today, racehorses go through one the strictest and most sensitive drug testing program that exists. ELISA testing of horse urine can detect even trace amounts of the stimulants, tranquilizers and behavior modifiers commonly used in horse doping. Before the 1980s, however, testing for these drugs was much more difficult and newspapers were often used as a fact sheet for would-be horse chemists.

By doping the horses, a gambler could gain an unfair advantage in the race and some said that newspapers, indirectly, had a part in these schemes.

To the Editor of The New York Times: Having read with great interest the various newspaper comments on the moral-if not criminal guilt of the Directors of the Western Union Telegraph Company in aiding and abetting the maintenance of poolrooms in our city, and noticed the apparent unanimity of opinion that the solution of the poolroom problem lies in the Western Union’s refusal to supply racing information to such places, I have wondered why the newspapers do not offer to do what they can as well as criticizing the telegraph company for what it does not do.

I believe that the newspapers can aid materially in remedying this evil, though they cannot stop it altogether, by refusing to print information regarding the condition, weights, odds etc . . . of the horses taking part in contests of speed and endurance, this depriving hundreds-yes,thousands-of those who are now throwing away the money which should be spent upon their homes and families, of the means of doping the horses. It is well known that that part of a newspaper containing the advance information regarding race horses is called the ‘dope sheet’ and a close observer will notice that that is the outside page of the newspaper as carried in the pockets of the young-aye, and old-men about town.

This raises the question as to whether a news source should be held responsible for illegal uses of perfectly legal material. There are scads of examples, but let’s just pick one – a 2006 article out of Toronto that links a website about goth/industrial culture with a gunman (member of the site) who killed and wounded someone in Montreal.

“Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Thursday that the Montreal shooting was impossible to comprehend. He also said there is a tricky balance between freedom of speech and websites like the one in question.”

Were newspaper editors really encouraging gambling and doping by printing the horse stats? Should blogs and other modern news sources be held responsible for how people use the information printed on their pages?

Thoughts?

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