Triple Crown Ethics: New York Racing Gets An Integrity Check

affirmed.1The best example of the ethical problem with the Star Syndrome, the expedient and destructive compromise organizations make to allow a high-level performer break rules and indulge in conduct that would not be tolerated in other employees, that I have seen in a long time involves…a horse.

California Chrome has won the first two races in the Triple Crown, with only the Belmont Stakes remaining. Horse racing hasn’t had a Triple Crown winner in decades, and has suffered as a result; everyone is rooting for its latest star to finally achieve the heights last reached by Affirmed in 1978. But CC used a nasal strip in his last six races, all victories, and while the devices, which aid breathing, are allowed by the racing rules of all states but one, New York, home of the Belmont, is the one. The owners of the horse say they may not run him if he isn’t allowed to use the strip (they are almost certainly bluffing, but its a good bluff); a request for an exception is pending.

The ethics here is simple as pie. If its a valid rule, then no exception should be made just because the horse in question is on the verge of making history. If it was an arbitrary rule, it should have been eliminated before now.  If the stewards allow California Chrome to use the strip because, well, he’s a big shot and it will be a shot in the arm for racing, but then go back to prohibiting ordinary horses to use it, that will be an outright rejection of fairness and integrity (not that this will be news flash for racing critics.).

If the rule was a good one in the first place, then it should apply to California Chrome. Waiving it just for him is favoritism, and unethical.

That, however, is exactly what will happen. Watch.


18 thoughts on “Triple Crown Ethics: New York Racing Gets An Integrity Check

  1. Could be worse.

    A Thurston County judge sentenced Shaun Goodman to just a year of work release for the Dec. 29 drunk driving episode.

    In that incident, Goodman led police on a chase through downtown Olympia at top speeds of 100 mph. The chase ended when he crashed his 2000 Ferrari F360 into a parked car and a home. His blood alcohol measured 0.16, twice the Washington state threshold for drunken driving.

    During the chase, a passenger in Goodman’s vehicle begged him to stop. The passenger later jumped out when the Ferrari slowed down at an intersection.

    Goodman eventually pleaded guilty to felony eluding a police officer and DUI, and the judge sentenced him this week to a year of work release,

    “And the judge has said at some point that he’s an important businessman in the community, and it wouldn’t be fair for him (and) his employees would suffer if he went to real jail. ”

    In February, a judge also gave Goodman permission to travel to New York City and attend the Super Bowl while his case was going through the court system.

    Even before the high-speed chase, Goodman had six DUI arrests on his record.

    According to the DUI sentencing grid, anyone convicted of a DUI who has already had two or more prior offenses must serve a mandatory 120 days in jail. The only exception being if the court finds that imprisonment would impose a “substantial risk to the offender’s physical or mental well-being.” It makes no mention of reducing the sentence based on the perceived financial losses to a business the defendant owns.

    Washington state law also states that defendants aren’t allowed to leave the state during a pending trial.

  2. Update:

    California Chrome has been allowed to wear the bloody thing.

    That said, if that article is correct, your analysis isn’t — the rule isn’t what you stated.

    What it seems is that New York has a rule against using any equipment not specifically approved — and that nose strips hadn’t (yet) made the list. The stewards simply added them, without really changing the rules.

    • And if I seem frustrated by the matter, it has more to do with the use of nasal strips in the first place and my general annoyance with unsupported medical claims than with anything else.

    • That’s spin. Other horses had been prevented from wearing them, so it had the same impact as a ban. And as the only hold-out, New York’s decision was clearly intentional, and the equivalent of a ban. I watched two features on the controversy (CNN and ESPN) and both termed it a ban.

      • Huh. Well, that does change things, although I cannot for the life of me figure out why the Hell they’d actually ban the things. (Not that this is at all relevant.)

        Also, you inserted the “than with anything else” too early in the sentence when editing my earlier response. It should be the last clause of the sentence.

      • However, if the rule is now “Horses can use them, period” I can’t get too worked up.

        If the ruling is “this horse can use them, but no others after that” then we have a problem…

        • I think changing the rule as soon as a big shot finds it inconvenient may marginally better than making a one-time exception for the big shot, but they are both integrity breaches. If the law is valid, then its inconvenience to the “star” shouldn’t result in either repeal or a waiver.

  3. Murder accusations notwithstanding, wasn’t it Oscar Pistorius who first made “Scientific American” magazine in an analysis of his “Flex-Foot Cheetah” prosthetic lower limbs, which “SA” judged that by their very construction the prosthetics allowed Pistorius to “use 25% less energy than natural runners?”

    And wasn’t there a bit of a hue and cry from “natural runners” who felt Pistorius had an unfair advantage? And wasn’t there also a bit of a hue and cry that he should be allowed to run in the Olympics anyway, because “he had worked so hard all his life to achieve this objective?” So was it fair? Would he have done so well if these extra-special, bouncy, prosthetics were not invented? Who knows? But how does one judge that controversy? (All moot now that he’s going to be using them to bounce around prison, I suppose.)

    I don’t suppose, Jack, that the Olympic Committee, when allowing Pistorius to use his special prosthetics had one, single thought about how exciting (and money-making) it would be for the Olympics to have an amputee run?

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