SAN ANTONIO -- Racehorses at one track on the outskirts of San Antonio are being injected with a questionable substance, right before the races. News 4 WOAI investigated the complaints of performance-altering drugs.
Located just Southwest of San Antonio, is the "brush track" in question. Unlike tracks like Retama, brush tracks are unregulated and unlicensed by the state. Although "no gambling" signs were clearly posted, it didn't take long for our hidden camera to catch spectators wagering on which horses were going to win.
Our cameras also caught horses being injected in the neck with a substance immediately before races. Experts with the Texas Racing Commission tell us at regulated tracks, any injection given immediately prior to the race is illegal.
We asked Bexar County Sheriff's Office investigators to accompany us back out to the track. The owner wasn't there, but a trainer told the detective that he wasn't aware of any onsite injections.
But News 4 WOAI found used syringes scattered all around the stalls where trainers prepare horses to race.
"The presence of syringes all over the ground in the area where the horses are, would indicate that this is a drug that's not being administered by a veterinarian," commented Kathy Guillermo, Vice President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). "And I would be very concerned about the possibility of illegal stimulants being used."
We got in touch with the track's owner, who told us the injections being used were either non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers known as "Bute," or "Lasix" -- a medicine that prevents bleeding in horses' lungs.
Experts say those claims are highly unlikely.
"It would be very unusual for somebody to be shooting up a horse with Lasix right before he's loaded into the gate," explained Guillermo. The medicine is typically administered hours prior to racing for maximum efficacy.
Experts say injections given immediately before racing are most likely aimed to enhance the horse's performance. "Mainly drugs that have stimulating qualities," commented Dr. Ken Quirk, Veterinarian for the Texas Racing Commission.
Such drugs often keep injured horses racing, instead of resting -- which could be fatal. According to PETA, three horses die on U.S. racetracks every day.
Bexar County investigators say without a search warrant, there's no way to prove what substance is actually being injected into the horses on the brush track we investigated. Authorities, however, will continue to monitor the track, and so will News 4 WOAI.
Congress recently introduced a Senate Bill that would outlaw giving any drugs to racehorses.