Why the Drugs? PETA US Seeks Investigation Into French Horse’s Death at Belmont

For Immediate Release:

16 June 2015


Sascha Camilli +44 (0) 20 7837 6327, ext 235; [email protected]



PETA US Calls On New York State Gaming Commission to Investigate Whether Helwan Really Needed Lasix – the Drug He Was Given Prior to Fatal Breakdown

London – The first time that French horse Helwan raced while on the drug Lasix was his last. At Belmont Park on 6 June, just hours before the Belmont Stakes, he broke his leg in the fourth race was euthanised. In a letter sent yesterday to the New York State Gaming Commission, PETA US asks for an investigation into whether he should have been given the drug in the first place.

In its letter, the group points out that in France, Helwan had raced his entire career — and had won or finished in the top three in every race— without Lasix, which is prohibited from being used on race days outside the US and Canada. In the US, Lasix is used regularly, supposedly to prevent pulmonary haemorrhages. But it’s also reportedly used as a performance enhancer to make horses run faster, as it’s a diuretic that dehydrates the animals, making them lighter and faster. Nearly every horse at Belmont that day, including Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, raced on Lasix. But the use of this drug is controversial because it also can debilitate horses by making them dehydrated and deficient in calcium, potassium and chloride – which can lead to muscle fatigue and weakness and may have contributed to Helwan’s broken leg and subsequent death.

New York racing regulations ban the use of Lasix unless horses meet certain qualifying conditions, such as a bleeding incident during a workout or a precedent of previously racing while on the drug – qualifiers that PETA US says Helwan’s history indicates he likely didn’t meet.

“Why would Helwan only need this powerful medication on US soil?” asks PETA Director Mimi Bekhechi. “We urge officials to find out whether there was credible evidence that Helwan actually bled during a workout, especially since he had never raced on Lasix before, or if he was given the drug so that he wouldn’t lose his competitive edge against the other horses – all of whom were on Lasix.”

For more information about the horse-racing industry, please visit PETA.org.uk.