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Saturday, August 10, 2013

How Not to Handle a "Scandal"

Harness racing has made the news in Northeast Pennsylvania.  As you can imagine it involves the 'blood-doping scandal' in Pennsylvania involving Aranesp which at this point revolves around three trainers (three horses) whose horses reportedly have tested positive for the drug.  Perhaps it is the revelations regarding Lance Armstrong and allegedly Alex Rodriguez which has heightened the interest in doping but when WNEP shows on their broadcast a graphic of a standardbred and a title which says "Doped-Up Horses?" it can't be a good thing.  This report talks about this scandal despite the fact only one positive came up at Pocono Downs.

Now, I am not saying the press shouldn't cover the story.  In fact, in the long run it may be good it was covered.  In general when the press shines a light on a scandal it is tougher to brush something under the carpet. 

The problem with this story doesn't lie with WNEP's coverage but the lack of Pocono Downs' management refusing to comment.  Instead of refusing comment, a more positive step would have been if management made a generic statement to the effect "While Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs can't talk about any ongoing investigation, we take blood doping very seriously here.  Any person who is found to have used drugs like Aranesp on a horse will be permanently barred from racing at Pocono Downs even if the offense occurred elsewhere (of course, Pocono Downs would have to be willing to follow through)".

It is called damage control.  "Yes, there may be a problem with a blood-doping agent but rest assured we will punish those cheaters severely" is a lot better than 'no comment'.    "No comment" in this case is equal to hunkering down.   Better to try to take control of the storyline instead of the storyline taking control of you.

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