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Kelly Spencer's Blog


Apples & Razor Blades

Published: November 2, 2008 1:08 am ET

Last Comment: November 9, 2008 12:31 pm ET | 8 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Happy belated Halloween. If your wee ones were on the candy prowl last Friday, you likely performed a search and seizure of their stash before allowing them to indulge. Right? And, I’m guessing you just pitched the well-meant apples altogether?

“Not worth the risk,” is what my mom chimed from the kitchen every Halloween as she trashed the shiny red candy apple lovingly prepared by the nice widow lady from two streets over.

In fact, candy tampering and apples laced with razor blades, pins and other naughty bits are almost entirely folklore. There have only been a handful (about 5) of child deaths worldwide, since the late ‘50s, attributed to candy tampering by homicidal strangers.

Despite that, consider how this ghastly urban legend has shaped trick-or-treating. The myth itself is so ugly that parents can’t resist the surrender. Kids, in turn, get a crash course about all of the world’s truly scary stuff, on a night that is supposed to be about make-belief and sugar delirium. No surprise, then, that most candy tampering reports are hoaxes fashioned by kids caught up in the madness.

I often think of apples and razor blades when I hear murmurs that harness racing’s biggest ailment “is the chemist”. And I hear it often enough, from relatively intelligent people – in boardrooms, in conferences, and in the backstretch.

But, it’s an echo from within the industry, not a shout from the outside.

The real numbers are about as epidemic as those for tampered Halloween candy.

In Ontario, more than 80,000 tests were conducted between 2004 and 2006 in the CPMA Drug Control Program. Positive tests amounted for 0.1 percent (74 horses). The same staggeringly low positives (yielded from a high number of tests) exist for the ORC’s other drug control programs.

While the world has its fair share of deranged lunatics, most of them are not hell-bent on poisoning your little ghouls and goblins. So stop freaking out your kids for naught and let them have the candy apple! Geez.

And, while harness racing certainly has plenty to worry about, rampant drugging is not one of them. And don’t kid yourself: the only people we have to blame for the circulation of that myth is ourselves.

November 9, 2008 - 12:31 pmKelly, Very well-written as

Scott Waddell (not verified) SAID...


Very well-written as usual. I love reading your stuff, you are a true professional in every sense of the word. Keep up the tremendous work on here ar GRR.

November 5, 2008 - 8:15 pmIf you are hearing these

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

If you are hearing these murmurs from "boardrooms, conferences and the backstretch" maybe there is something to them. They are as you say coming from "relatively intelligent people". I think I will choose to follow the crowd and keep checking the candy apples. Perhaps maybe these "relatively intelligent people" you speak of can do something about it, like stop it, and maybe this "folklore" will subside. Maybe one nice Hallowe'en night we all might just be able to eat that candy apple and be proud to do it.

November 5, 2008 - 7:03 amKeep up the positive spirit.

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

Keep up the positive spirit. This sport needs it, good work.

November 3, 2008 - 5:37 pmThere is an underlying

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

There is an underlying presumption in your blog entry that all drugs are detectable. That is incorrect, and that is where our perception problem arises, not with the drugs that are listed in the schedules for which accurate testing is available.

November 3, 2008 - 4:04 pmAll it takes is one bad

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

All it takes is one bad apple (either on Halloween or in the harness racing industry). I'll continue my due diligence and check my childrens candy and the harness racing industry needs to do their's by making sure all avenues of cheating are plugged.

November 3, 2008 - 2:53 pmKelly. I appreciate what you

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

Kelly. I appreciate what you are saying but the key is these people are intelligent and know what they are saying. More testing needs to be done before I believe that the chemists are not out there. That's what makes them chemists. They know what to give and when in order to avoid detection. It's the drugs that can't be found with traditional testing that scare me.

November 3, 2008 - 2:35 pmWhile it's true that drug

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

While it's true that drug use is probably less prevelant than in past years, it's also true that perception is reality in the modern world. We recently had 4 EPO positives in Lexington. The problem here is that these positives may not be prosecuted or publicized. They were technically obtained out of competition. With decisions like this, made by those entrusted with the welfare of the sport, harness racing is doomed. The competition for entertainment dollars is being lost. The people at the top are as much to blame as anyone or anything. This EPO situation in Lexington is just very bad for business.

November 3, 2008 - 2:02 pmKeep up the good work Kelly.

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

Keep up the good work Kelly. The Industry needs some positive print from time to time and why not before Xmas

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