As a young kid, I have vivid memories of my brother telling me about what you had to do if you had a tapeworm – yep, it caused a few nightmares over the next 50 years but fortunately the therapy is winding down.
It didn’t help though after reading Laura Hillenbrand’s outstanding book – Seabiscuit: An American Legend – a little while back.
There’s a terrific section in the book that discusses the many travails of jockeys throughout the depression years, including the hoop that was ‘won’ in a poker game.
He remembers having the flap of his tent flung open in the middle of the night with some strange bloke telling him to get his A into G because he’d just won him playing cards with the jockey’s now former boss.
But if that wasn’t bad enough, Hillenbrand’s research showed that some jockeys swallowed tapeworm pills to help lose weight …
For jockeys who were truly desperate, there was one last resort. Contact the right people, and you could get hold of a special capsule, a simple pill guaranteed to take off all the weight you wanted. In it was the egg of a tapeworm. Within a short while the parasite would attach to a man’s intestines and slowly suck the nutrients out of him. The pounds would peel away like magic. When the host jockey became too malnourished, he could check into a hospital to have the worm removed, then return to the track and swallow a new pill.
Saunas, endless rounds of golf and walking around in plastic rain coat on a sunny day looks a little mild by comparison.