LOUISVILLE, Ky. Big Brown's owner doesn't want to wait for the federal government to come in and clean up horse racing.
Michael Iavarone, the co-owner of IEAH Stables, said Monday the 50-plus horses owned by the syndicate will be drug-free by the end of the year. That includes steroids and all other legal racing medications except for Lasix.
Iavarone said last week's congressional hearing in which owners, veterinarians and industry officials expressed a strong desire to rid the sport of steroids led to the decision.
"You see that people that are influential in the game all want it," Iavarone said. "Hopefully we're the first of many (owners) to take the step, but you've got to show you really want it."
U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield the ranking Republican on the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection called move a good sign but doesn't expect to see other owners lining up behind IEAH.
"I'm confident there's not going to be a mass stampede by owners," Whitfield told the Associated Press. "There are owners in some states who fear (by not taking the drugs) they would be less competitive."
Nevertheless, some believe the move by IEAH could take some of the sting out of a rough two weeks for the syndicate and their superstar horse following Big Brown's lethargic last-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.
Trainer Rick Dutrow created a stir before the Belmont when he told reporters he decided against giving the horse his monthly dose of stanozolol, a legal steroid sometimes sold under the brand name Winstrol. Some critics speculated Big Brown was suffering from steroid withdrawal during the race, a notion Iavarone dismisses.
What happened during the Belmont remains a mystery to Iavarone, though a picture he received from a freelance photographer taken during the race shows Big Brown running with a seemingly dislodged shoe on his right hind foot. There was no evidence of injury to the hoof after the race, but Iavarone doesn't think it could have been comfortable for the horse, who was wearing an acrylic patch on his left front hoof to compensate for a painful quarter crack.