The Debate is Simple: Horses Health vs. Better Public Perception

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By Wes Bright, Staff Member

Proponents of Lasix have an array of reasons why the drug should be used in horseracing. The most obvious of these is that it prevents bleeding in horses. The number of horses that bleed is said to be close to 80%.[i] Because of this great majority, many studies have been done, similar to one conducted at the University of Melbourne, in Melbourne, Australia.[ii] This study was performed in South Africa and used 167 thoroughbreds to determine if the use of Lasix actually helped control Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH). These horses were raced twice, one week apart, with every variable being controlled except for the administration of Lasix.[iii] Randomly, the horses were either given Lasix or a placebo saline solution during the first race. Those that received the Lasix in the first race would then receive the saline in the second and vice versa. The study found that horses given the saline solution were far more likely to develop EIPH and that almost 68% of the horses that bled when given the Lasix had a reduction in the severity of the EIPH.[iv] This study is often cited as one of the main reasons Lasix should be used in horse racing.[v]

The most popular reason for banning Lasix is that the drug is a black eye to the sport’s public perception. The Jockey Club cites a poll conducted by the Horseplayers’ Association of North America (HANA) that found almost 75% of its members supported the phasing out of Lasix.[vi] They go on to say that, “they’re against the idea of performance enhancing drugs in sports.”[vii] Therein lies the problem. If we believe the popularity of the sport is dwindling, it may be because the public has not been well informed enough to know that the phrase “performance enhancing” does not always involve steroids. Organizations and the public observe certain studies finding that horses on Lasix are better at running than those without and assume Lasix must be like steroids.[viii] If they understood how water could also be seen as a performance enhancer, it is likely that they would realize the need for Lasix.[ix]
[i] Kenneth W. Hinchcliff, Paul S. Morley & Alan J Guthrie, Efficacy of furosemide for prevention of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage in Thoroughbred racehorses, 235 J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc. 76 (2009).
[ii] Id.
[iii] Id.
[iv] Id.
[v] Erica Larson, EIPH and Furosemide Use in Racehorses Explained, (Oct. 4, 2012) http://www.
[vi] Transcript of The Jockey Club Annual Round Table Conference, The Jockey Club (2011) (available at
[vii] Chris Wittstruck, Banning Lasix is wrong for the horses, (May 7, 2012)
[viii] Study: Furosemide has health benefits for Thoroughbred racehorses: AVMA Press Room 6/29/09, Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (June 29, 2009) headlines.asp?id=&s=&article=546.
[ix] See Wittstruck, supra note vii.