Dermott Bottoms’ Chee-Chuck is one of the iguanas to test positive for performance-enhancing substances Thursday at the Blacktip Island iguana racetrack. (photo courtesy of Kitty Terwolbeck)
Blacktip Island’s iguana racing community was rocked Thursday afternoon by allegations of iguanas testing positive for performance-enhancing substances.
“We got suspicious when slow iguanas that had never won anything suddenly started winning races with record times,” said Blacktip Iguana Racing Club president Clete Horn. “We did random blood draws after the latest race and discovered significant levels of white rum in several iguanas.
“Turns out, rum’s a stimulant for iguanas,” Horn said. “It’s not just for dive staff anymore. We’re hoping it’s a few isolated cases by a few over-competitive trainers, but we don’t know yet.”
The trainer at the heart of the controversy downplayed the allegations.
“I always give Chee-Chuck a taste rum before the race. No big deal,” iguana trainer Dermott Bottoms said. “Calms her down. I drink some, too, for my nerves. It’s a stressful sport.”
Others in the racing community were not so dismissive.
“Big money ruined the sport, made it way more cutthroat over the past year,” iguana hostler Molly Miller said. “All the sponsorships and TV contracts, they have people cutting corners wherever they can.
“Trackside violence is on the upswing, too,” Miller said. “First there was the drunkenness, then the fights among bettors, now this. It’s not the family-friendly racecourse it used to be.”
Authorities are focused on the influence of organized crime in the sport.
“Criminal organizations are active in iguana racing across the Caribbean,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “On-track betting’s legal, since government gets half the take, but all the off-track side betting isn’t, and that’s been a magnet for bookmaking and racketeering.
“The biggest player is Cal Amari’s outfit on Tiperon,” Marquette said. “He’s got his tentacles in every aspect of racing. With him and his Ink Stain gang so close, our concern is this race-fixing may be just the tip of the iceberg, crime-wise.”
Race fans were shaken by the news.
“If you can’t trust the outcome of the iguana races, what can you trust?” resident Ginger Bass said. “We used to bring the kiddos and make a day of it, but no more. We can’t expose them to that sort of blatant dishonesty.
“Racing fans island-wide feel like we’ve lost our innocence this week,” Bass said. “And not in a good way. It just hurts. I’m keeping the money I won on Chee-Chuck, though. To help ease the pain.”