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State suspects dog tracks of using steroids on greyhounds

GreyhoundsSteroids: They’re not just for professional athletes. They’re also for race dogs.

A dog trainer at the Flagler and Hollywood greyhound tracks has been charged with illegally possessing performance-enhancing drugs, raising the prospect that drugs are being illegally used to enhance racing results.

The Florida Division of Parimutuel Wagering charged James “Barney” O’Donnell, the operator of the Florida Kennel Compound in Hialeah, with violating state laws that prohibit the possession of the drugs where racing animals are kept. The facility, which houses hundreds of dogs, is jointly owned by Mardi Gras and Flagler dog tracks.

O’Donnell, 84, is one of the industry’s largest greyhound operators in the nation. He owns and trains dogs in multiple states and runs the compound shared by South Florida’s racinos.

State regulators say it is illegal to use any anabolic steroids on racing dogs, but the state does not test for their presence when dogs are tested after a race.

“This calls into question the integrity of the race,’’ said Carey Thiel, executive director of GREY2K USA, a Massachusetts-based greyhound protection organization that monitors animal treatment in Florida. “We don’t know whether this was an attempt to prevent estrus (heat) in female greyhounds or enhance the performance in racing dogs — either of those are troubling.”

Dan Adkins, owner of Mardi Gras Racetrack and Casino in Hollywood, said he learned of the investigation on Thursday from a Herald/Times reporter.

“Congratulations. You beat the state,’’ he said. “We’re going to follow up on it and take whatever action is necessary.’’

Although the drugs were first discovered at the kennel in August, the state has not taken any disciplinary action against the trainer or the track. More here.   

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