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Starving to win?

Dateline: 07/25/00

About.com Poll
Would raising the scale of weights help with the jockey's problems?

Yes, they are dangerously low for the jockeys' health.
No, it will only entice heavier people to become jockeys and you wind up with the same problem.
There is no good solution to this problem.
This issue is too complex, I can't decide.

Current Results
Most of us have been vaguely aware of the fact that many jockeys go to extremes to make the low weights assigned them but somehow it seems to get lost in the cracks just how badly these guys treat themselves so they can ride. Many live on starvation diets or develop bulimia as a way to keep their weight down and of course they all wind up in the hot box sometimes to sweat off that extra pound or two on race day. Many are so wasted from this that you wonder how they can manage to stay aboard their mounts much less control the 1000 lb. beasts!

Most jockey's rooms have a special room just for purging or "flipping" as they call it because the practice is so common. In addition to this many spend 2-4 hours a day in the 140 degree hot box to sweat off even more weight. Others will combine this with taking laxatives or diuretics such as lasix or home-made concoctions to try and get even lighter. These practices can have grave effects on their bodies but one of the most dangerous is potassium depletion and a jockey died from that earlier this year. Some insurance companies won't even insure jockeys after they stop riding because of all the damage the dieting did to their bodies and bones. There is even early evidence that female jockeys who reduce like this have more birth defects in their babies than the general population

Many people feel the only solution to this is to raise the scale of weights so jockeys don't have to reduce so much. Others feel this will help current jocks but will induce more who would be borderline for the new weight scale to start the vicious reducing practices to become a jockey. NYRA has taken a lead in this and just last week adjusted their scale of weights up a bit. "We think it will be better for the jockeys while at the same time not putting horses at a competitive disadvantage," said Mike Lakow, NYRA racing secretary. "We believe it will be fair for all concerned parties." Hopefully other jurisdictions will follow suit.

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