Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has filed a lawsuit in federal court as he seeks to overturn a 15-day suspension he received after one of his horses, Saratoga Snacks, tested positive for overages of the therapeutic medications furosemide (Lasix/Salix) and flunixin (banamine). Saratoga Snacks tested positive after finishing last in an allowance race at Belmont Park on Sept. 20, 2014. The suit, which names ten New York State Gaming Commission members, state steward Stephen Lewandowski, and New York Drug Testing and Research Program director Dr. George Maylin, alleges that the state failed to allow Mott due process in appealing the suspension and that the trainer’s livelihood is suffering as a result of the state’s unfair actions. Mott claims that when he requested a split blood sample to challenge the positives, the commission officials forwarded a urine sample, which was “completely useless to serve as a referee sample, given that only the quantitative levels allegedly found in the post-race blood sample served as the basis upon which Mr. Mott received his violation.” Mott attorney Andrew Mollica said Thursday his understanding is that urine samples are useful primarily to detect the presence or absence of a no-tolerance drug such as cocaine, not to determine the concentration of a therapeutic substance. To read the full article written by Natalie Voss on Paulick Report click on this link.
Well respected harness racing trainer/driver Peter Greig must have wondered weather all his bad luck had come at once when he had a night at Albion Park on Saturday night that he will never forget. The Queensland Police raided Albion Park Raceway on Saturday night executing a search warrant for drugs on horse trainers and drivers. When they came to Peter Greig in the stabling area, he objected to the widespread searching of bags and people and by all accounts was very close to being arrested at one point. In the end the Police slapped Peter Grieg with an infringement notice for allegedly obstructing a sniffer dog from inspecting a bag. A spokesman for Queensland police confirmed that no drugs were found during the extensive search and no arrests were made as a result of last nights operation. Mr Farquharson defended the searches when spoken to last night. “We have had several incidents in the recent past where cocaine has been found so we want to make sure that it doesn’t happen again,” Mr Farquharson said. If the night had started badly for Peter Grieg, it got worse in race 4, the $50,000 Autumn Staryers Cup where Peter was driving Major Moment for Grant Dixon. Away well from barrier one on the 20 metres mark, Major Moment was making good progress through the strung out field when Swarovski who had can canned away from barrier one and run up the track a touch, came back down the track and collected Major Moment who was in full flight, tipping Peter Grieg out of the bike in spectacular fashion. Peter was able to walk to the ambulance but at this time we have no further information as to how Peter is. We here at Harnesslink wish Peter a speedy recovery safe in the knowledge that he has just used up all his bad luck for this year in one night. Harnesslink Media
Four veterinarians entered guilty pleas for their illegal doping of thoroughbred race horses at Penn National Race Track in Grantville, Pennsylvania. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Dr. Kevin Brophy, age 60, Florida, Dr. Fernando Motta, age 44, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Dr. Christopher Korte, age 43, Pueblo, Colorado, pleaded guilty today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab in Harrisburg. Dr. Renee Nodine, age 52, Annville, pleaded guilty yesterday afternoon. Each defendant is charged with allegedly administering drugs to horses within 24 hours of when the horse was entered to race. This conduct was in violation of the state law prohibiting the rigging of publicly exhibited contests and regulations prohibiting the administration of drugs to horses within 24 hours of when they are entered to race. Additionally, because the administering of the drugs was in violation of the state criminal laws, rules and regulations governing thoroughbred racing, they were not dispensed in the course of the defendants’ professional practice. At the guilty plea proceedings before Magistrate Judge Schwab, Assistant United States Attorney William A. Behe explained that the drugs were not administered to treat the horses but to enhance the horses’ performance in the race or to give it an edge over other horses. According to Behe this constituted misbranding of the prescription animal drugs in violation of federal law. The alleged activity took place at various times beginning as early as 1986 and continuing up to August 2014. The Informations also allege that the defendants conspired with horse trainers, whose identities are “known to the United States”, to administer the drugs in violation of the laws, rules and regulations governing the conduct of thoroughbred racing. The guilty pleas this week were pursuant to plea agreements in which the defendants agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with the United States in the continuing investigation. At the guilty plea proceedings Behe informed the court that cooperation by the defendants was an essential part of the plea agreement and that the defendants had already identified for the United States the many trainers with whom the defendants conspired with to illegally administer drugs to the horses. Behe identified for the court the drugs that were administered to include, among others, Kentucky Red, Carolina Gold, Bute, Dexamethasone, Banamine, Stop2, Estrogen, L-Arginine, and ACTH. According to the charges, trainers allegedly placed orders for drugs and the defendants, after administering the drugs, backdated the billing records to avoid detection. The defendants allegedly submitted false veterinarian treatment reports to the State Horse Racing Commission, omitting from those reports any reference to the drugs administered to horses at the track on race day. The filing of these reports and the backdating of billing records were, allegedly, to further the conspiracy by concealing the illegal activity. These acts had the potential to defraud other owners and trainers whose horses were entered in the same race and defrauded the betting public as well. The matter is being investigated by the Harrisburg Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission, U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, and the Pennsylvania State Police. Assistant United States Attorney William A. Behe is prosecuting the cases for the United States. Indictments and criminal Informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court. A sentence following a finding of guilty is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The maximum penalty in these cases under the federal statute is 2 years imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a $200,000 fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant’s educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant. By Paul Smith Reprinted with permission of Fox43.com
Stewards today conducted an inquiry into the pathology report pertaining to a urine sample provided by licensed harness racing driver Brendan Barnes at a race meeting conducted at Albion Park on Saturday, 4 April 2015, which upon analysis revealed the presence of cocaine metabolites BENZOYLECGONINE and ECGONINE METHYL ESTER above the permitted threshold. After considering all the evidence tendered, Stewards charged Mr Barnes pursuant to AHR Rule 252E (1) which reads: “Subject to sub-rule (2) a person shall not have any alcohol or drug of abuse in his or her body when carrying on or purporting to carry on a licensed activity or official duties at a meeting.” Specifics of the charge being that when engaging in licensed activity at Albion Park on Saturday, 4 April 2015, Mr Barnes provided a urine sample which upon analysis was found to contain a drug of abuse, namely the metabolites of cocaine, BENZOYLECGONINE and ECGONINE METHYL ESTER. Barnes pleaded guilty to the charge. When considering the matter of penalty, stewards were mindful of the short period of time Barnes has held a licence, his record regarding this particular rule, and the impact any penalty may have on Barnes’ personal and financial situation. Consideration was also given to penalty precedents, the seriousness of the breach and the substance involved and the need for a penalty to serve as a deterrent to Barnes and to illustrate to the industry that offences of this nature will not be tolerated, particularly bearing in mind the importance of a drug free workplace. In all the circumstances Stewards determined the appropriate penalty be a disqualification of Barnes’ licence for a period of six months, to be backdated to commence on Saturday, 4 April 2015, the day on which he was stood down. Further, under the provisions of AHR Rule 250(4), Barnes was advised he will be required to provide a sample free of banned substances prior to resuming driving. Barnes was advised of his appeal rights. Racing Queensland Media
Five veterinarians have been invited to speak at the Ohio State Racing Commission monthly meeting to discuss possible medication practices for Ohio horseracing. The meeting will be held on April 28, at 10 a.m., 19th floor of the Riffe Center, 77 South High St., Columbus. These veterinarians will present their views regarding medication protocols for both the Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing industries, and provide their insight into the Racing Commissioners International (RCI) and Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) controlled therapeutic medication proposals. The veterinarians scheduled to attend include: Dr. John Reichert, partner/practitioner at the Woodland Run Equine Clinic in Grove City. Dr. Dan Wilson, partner/practitioner at the Cleveland Equine Clinic specializing in racetrack Standardbreds, equine anesthesia, and racing medications and testing. Dr. John Piehowicz, practitioner/owner at Cincinnati Equine, LLC, whose client list includes Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup winning conditioners. Dr. Brett Berthold, owner/practitioner at the Cleveland Equine Clinic whose area of focus includes lameness evaluation, respiratory health and MRI. Dr. Clara Fenger, a founding member of North American Association of Racetrack Veterinarians and a practitioner in central Kentucky. At the March OSRC meeting, the USTA's Phil Langley and Mike Tanner, along with the HBPA's Dave Basler and trainer William Cowans and the OHHA's Renee Mancino and trainer Virgil Morgan, Jr., offered their thoughts on medication and testing procedures. During February's OSRC meeting Edward Martin, RCI President and Dr. Dionne Benson, RMTC Executive Director provided input into these same subjects. The OSRC values input from all stakeholders within both the Thoroughbred and Standardbred Ohio racing communities and is moving forward into developing a sound medication policy. Kimberly A. Rinker Administrator Ohio Standardbred Development Fund Kimberly A. Rinker Administrator Ohio Standardbred Development Fund firstname.lastname@example.org Ohio State Racing Commission 77 S. High Street, 18th Floor Columbus, Ohio 43215-6108 Phone 614-779-0269 Fax 614-466-1900
Racing industry officials in late March and early April said they again expect to see federal legislation filed this year that would authorize the United States Anti-Doping Agency to oversee equine medication and drug testing procedures. Last summer The Jockey Club at its Round Table conference indicated it would advocate for federal involvement in addition to current state-by-state efforts to adopt the National Uniform Medication Program. Also last August Travis Tygart, chief executive officer and counsel for USADA, outlined a strategy at a briefing put together by the Water Hay Oats Alliance. WHOA, which has a growing membership of Thoroughbred stakeholders, in its mission statement supports passage of a federal bill that would "prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport of horse racing" via an independent anti-doping program run by USADA. During the Racing Officials Accreditation Program conference in late March, industry officials said there will be a heightened push in 2015 for federal legislation that would be similar to a bill introduced in 2013. Ed Martin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, suggested the legislation would identify USADA to oversee the program. "RCI does not have a position on any piece of legislation," Martin said at the ROAP conference. "It does believe in using a compact that lets states maintain their authority. We can spend a lot of time and money playing musical chairs to address the issue. Organizations are spending money on lobbyists that can be used for equine welfare or funding the TRPB to hire investigators. That's the problem we have to address, not the rearranging of the chairs." Details on the 2015 strategy aren't yet known, though Jim Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club, indicated April 2 the organization is maintaining the course it outlined last year. "The Jockey Club continues to closely monitor the progress of the National Uniform Medication Program and, at the same time, consider strategies to broaden our advocacy for improved and uniform regulation for Thoroughbred racing," Gagliano said. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association also predicted lawmakers will be solicited to sponsor federal legislation on medication regulation and testing. The organization, as it has in the past, won't take a position on the issue. "The NTRA has taken no position on these bills as our membership remains divided on the issue of federal or central authority over testing for banned substances and the regulation of therapeutic medications," NTRA president and CEO Alex Waldrop said. "However, the association continues to provide information and data to interested parties and remains committed to achieving consensus on this issue." The NTRA on its board has representatives of horsemen's groups and racetracks, some of which oppose federal involvement. Others on the NTRA board, such as The Jockey Club, believe more must be done regarding medication and drug testing. Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association chairman Alan Foreman, who also spoke at the ROAP conference, said whether there is federal oversight or not, the research and scientific advice will have to come from the horseracing industry because USADA hasn't done equine drug testing. He also cited progress on adoption of all or parts of the National Uniform Medication Program. "You'll hear the only answer is for the federal government to regulate horse racing," Foreman said. "If (supporters) a year ago got behind a uniform message that racing has a better story to tell than any other sport, I guarantee you the public's impression of the sport would be different at this time." The National Uniform Medication Program allows for the use of race-day furosemide, also called Salix or Lasix. The proposed Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act of 2013 called for a ban on all medication within 24 hours of a race, with a two-year exception for furosemide. Whether the same language is included in the 2015 version of the bill remains to be seen. Foreman indicated he believes it will be part of the bill. "Lasix is going to be like gun control or abortion," he said. "It's going to divide this industry." Tygart last year made a point to note the issue is about federal legislation, not federal regulation or intervention. If USADA was authorized to handle equine drug testing and enforcement, the organization would have to develop rules, with industry input, that would be unique to horse racing, he said. USADA isn't a federal agency, though it does receive federal grant money. Tygart also said there is an inherent conflict of interest when a sport promotes and polices itself, and suggested horse racing falls into that category under its current structure. Martin of RCI, meanwhile, has repeatedly stated that state regulators are independent by virtue of their responsibilities. Written by Tom LaMarra Reprinted with the permission of bloodhorse.com Read more on BloodHorse.com:
Racetrack magnate Jeff Gural hates dishonesty. Once you know that, it’s easy to understand why the man who spent more than $100 million to build a new grandstand at the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey said he was “really angry” with Standardbred trainer Corey Johnson. Both horses Johnson raced in the Breeders Crown at the Meadowlands in November of 2014 — including Traceur Hanover, the winner of the 2-year-old colt pace — later tested positive for cobalt. The lab in Hong Kong Gural personally employed to do the testing reported each horse had five times the threshold level of cobalt typically found in a horse’s system. Gural, 72, also was irked that the New Jersey Racing Commission had allowed Johnson to race in the Breeders Crown in the first place. The Ontario Racing Commission suspended the trainer on the Monday before the Crown finals after another horse he trained received a positive test for elevated total carbon dioxide (TC02) levels at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. “The guy embarrassed the sport,” said Gural, who maintains a sizeable list of trainers banned from racing at the Meadowlands as well as the two smaller harness tracks he also owns in upstate New York — Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs. Yet, Gural couldn’t bar Johnson’s Crown entries because the Breeders Crown is operated by the Hambletonian Society, which defers to the sport’s state and provincial regulators to determine a participant’s eligibility. The New Jersey Racing Commission allowed Johnson to race because the trainer had not had a hearing in Ontario prior to the Crown finals. After the cobalt positive, Gural not only banned Johnson from racing at his tracks, he also banned entries from Quebec-based owner Richard Berthiaume, the owner of both of Johnson’s Breeders Crown entries. “We’ve now made changes to our rules so that can never happen again,” Gural said, explaining the language in those rules is so broad that the track will now be able to reject entries for all stakes races at his tracks, even those operated by outside groups. The Breeders Crown will return to the Meadowlands in 2016. Gural is puzzled why people in horse racing call him a polarizing figure. To read the extensive full article written by Dave Briggs click here. Dave Briggs is the co-editor of Canadian Thoroughbred magazine and a freelance horse racing columnist and features writer. For 18 years, he was the editor of the harness racing trade publication The Canadian Sportsman.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) today heard an application of Mr Craig Demmler for a stay of proceedings regarding a decision made by the HRV Racing Appeals and Disciplinary (RAD) Board on 18 March 2015. The decision of the RAD Board was to affirm the 13 March 2015 decision of the HRV Stewards to suspend the training and driving licences of Mr Demmler pending the outcome of an investigation into an analytical report that one of Mr Demmler’s horses returned an elevated raceday cobalt level that was in excess of the relevant threshold permitted by the rules. After hearing submissions from the legal representatives of Mr Demmler and the HRV Stewards, VCAT dismissed Mr Demmler’s application for a stay of proceedings, resulting in Mr Demmler’s licences remaining suspended. The VCAT determined it was only hearing the stay application at this stage and such suspension would remain in place until such time as a further VCAT review hearing (regarding the RAD Board decision) was held on a date to be fixed. Harness Racing Victoria
Harness Racing New South Wales will send a range of urine samples to Cologne, Germany to be screened for several different prohibited substances including xenon and argon gas. Methods of analysis for the detection of the elements has been developed for both blood and urine samples by a German laboratory. HRNSW CEO John Dumesny confirmed the samples would be tested in Germany, as the governing body ensured it remained the industry leader in regards to its integrity strategies and policy. "HRNSW strives to ensure there is a level playing field for all participants in the sport of harness racing in this state and the decision to send these swabs to Germany affirms our stance," Dumesny said. "Xenon and Argon are both prohibited substances and are catergorised as stimulating agents." Inhaling the gas has shown to boost levels of erythropoietin in the body which in turn stimulates the production of red blood cells. "HRNSW will leave no stone unturned in keeping the sport clean." "As a body, HRNSW wants the participants and punters alike to have full confidence in the sport and through strategies like this we are assuring this is the case." Greg Hayes For your interest; Nina Notman investigates the recent ban on athletes inhaling noble gases Anti-doping agencies are constantly working to stay one step ahead of athletes who want to cheat by using drugs that enhance their performance. Doping is nothing new; since the ancient Greeks humans are known to have tweaked diets and used herbal concoctions to boost athletic performance. But as drugs have become more sophisticated over the past century or so, their effectiveness – as well as the risks to the athlete’s heath – has increased. Today, doping is banned in most sports worldwide. There are 32 global labs accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada). They are filled with oodles of high tech analytical chemistry instruments able to detect minute traces of prohibited drugs in blood and urine. But as these techniques improve, unscrupulous athletes are just moving onto doping approaches not (yet) on Wada’s prohibited list. The latest approach uncovered, and hence banned, is inhaling noble gases argon or xenon. Some evidence suggests these gases increase hypoxia-inducible factor 1-α levels in the blood. ‘This protein stimulates EPO – erythropoietin – production in the body,’ says Nick Wojek, head of science and medicine at UK Anti-Doping. EPO increases the body’s red blood cell count, increasing blood’s oxygen carrying capacity and therefore enhancing performance and endurance, he explains. Argon and xenon are both naturally present in the air. Argon makes up 0.9% of air, while xenon accounts for a minuscule one part per 10 million. They can be obtained by fractional distillation of liquid air and both have a handful of medical uses: argon is used in cryosurgery for treating cancer; xenon as an anaesthetic, for imaging lungs and for treating tissues starved from oxygen in heart attacks. Cheating athletes, however, mix them with oxygen and inhale them through a gas mask. Once the ban, which came into force on 1 September, was announced, media attention turned to how these cheating athletes could be caught out as at that time no accredited test for argon or xenon doping was available. However there is now a test in development. Gas chromatography mass spectrometry, a staple in Wada accredited laboratories, has previously been shown to be able to detect xenon in the blood plasma of patients who have received the gas as an anaesthetic. Work is ongoing to ensure this technique is robust enough for anti-doping testing. In the meantime, Athlete Biological Passports will provide clues that blood doping has taken place. ‘Here we are not looking for the substance itself, we are looking at the effects of the substance on the body,’ explains Nick. A change in haemoglobin markers in the blood would be seen, for example. Doping violations lead to bans ranging from a few months to a lifetime depending on the severity of the offence. But when the desire to win outweighs the desire to play fair this isn’t always enough to prevent doping. Fingers crossed one day analytical chemistry will be able to unearth every single cheat, allowing the spirit of sport to truly be protected. How xenon gas may boost performance Inhaling xenon, mixed with oxygen, is believed to improve stamina because it increases the body's production of a protein known as hypoxia inducible factor 1, or HIF1. In turn this stimulates the production of natural erythropoietin (EPO) which regulates the number of red blood cells. The more of these cells, the more oxygen you can carry, and the greater your athletic stamina. Doping with artificial EPO has been one of the biggest threats to the integrity of sport over the past 20 years. The clampdown on using the drug has seen sports scientists develop other methods including the use of xenon and argon. Gas facts Xenon and argon are called noble gases because they are inert and don't react with anything else At less than 100 parts per billion, xenon is one of the rarest natural gas components in the atmosphere Xenon has been used in flash bulbs, lamps and in medical imaging In Russia, xenon has been used for decades as an anaesthetic because of its lack of side effects
Statement from harness racing trainer Lou Pena's Lawyer Andrew J. Turro; Needless to say, Lou and I were both disappointed that the Third Department did not recognize that the Commission has violated his statutory and constitutional rights as the Supreme Court had previously ruled. We both are fully committed to the challenges ahead and recognize that the path to justice can be a winding road. We intend to appeal the Third Department's decision to the New York Court of Appeals, the State's highest court, and remain optimistic that in the end, justice will be served and that Lou will be fully vindicated. The full Court transcript
“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof. – John Kenneth Galbraith The majority of race tracks are not populated by horses with the qualifications of Dortmund or California Chrome, or by trainers with the name recognition of Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert or Steve Asmussen. The base of the racing pyramid is built with horses named Grant or Get a Notion, animals that are kept in racing condition by trainers who toil in relative anonymity at tracks often ignored by the people who often forget racing occurs at places other than the cathedrals of the sport like Saratoga or Churchill Downs or Santa Anita. The base of the pyramid is built on the blue collar efforts of guys like Bill Brashears, conditioners keeping $3,500 claimers healthy enough to run and plying their trade in the minor leagues of racing at tracks like Turf Paradise, Arapahoe Park, Farmington, Rilito, and Albuquerque. Brashears comes across exactly like what he is. A guy who shoots straight and understands that you treat people with unambiguous honesty and fairness, expecting the same in return. He is guileless and smart and hard-working, a trainer’s trainer. Success in his business is based on relationships, knowing who the good guys and not so good guys are. Who can be trusted and who needs to be taken with a few grains of salt. In Bill’s world you give the good guys the benefit of the doubt until they give you a reason not to. The bad guys – better to just not deal with them. He treats his horses with the kind of care you only see from someone with a love for the thoroughbred and a passion for watching them run. He is not the guy described by a cynical racing executive as being willing to do anything that will allow him to win. It is simply not in his nature to do anything less than treat his horses as if they were family, the core of Brashears Racing. You can see him metamorphose around his horses, the hardscrabble exterior melting away into a doting grandfather, feeding them peppermints and affectionately scratching at their muzzle. He admits that when he climbed over a fence at 13 so he could see horses run, he was hooked. He trains not simply because it is a job, but because it is so much a part of who he is. He’ll never amass a fortune running at the smaller tracks, but that was never his goal. If Bill Brashears is remembered as a trainer who worked his butt off and played by the rules and was an example to any trainer hoping to make a mark in racing the right way, he will be satisfied. What a lot of trainers, including Bill Brashears, are having trouble with is believing they could do everything what they thought was the right way, but have still been hit with medication positives. In Brashears case the offending drug was Banamine, a medication that has been used for years to help control inflammation. Horses are athletes and they suffer from the same affflictions common to all athletes. It is nothing less than humane to treat horses with therapeutic medications, drugs that will provide comfort to the animals while they recuperate. What a therapeutic like Banamine doesn’t do is mask pain in a way that will allow a horse to run as if nothing is wrong. Ask any veterinarian – if you are trying to mask an injury, you would have to use a fairly strong narcotic not the equine equivalent of ibuprofen. Again ask any veterinarian – inflammation is a natural process and it is critical for survival. It is defined as “a protective immunovascular response that involves immune cells, blood vessels, and molecular mediators. The purpose of inflammation is to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury, clear out necrotic cells and tissues damaged from the original insult and the inflammatory process, and to initiate tissue repair.” The problem is that often this process becomes excessive, creating a vicious cycle and causing more tissue damage and pain than the injury itself might. Inflammation can produce different products, including prostaglandins and other inflammatory “mediators” that help bring about these effects. According to Thal Equine Hospital in Santa Fe, NM, “This is where anti-inflammatory drugs are helpful. Their role is to dampen inflammation by reducing the formation of these mediators, and thus reducing the signs of disease (swelling, pain and fever, for example) while still allowing healing to take place.” In other words, anti-inflammatory drugs are precisely what are indicated for certain conditions. One might even argue it is cruel not to give a horse with inflammation a medication. Banamine belongs to a class of drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (“NSAIDS”), which includes familiar human drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen. They are drugs that have been used safely and effectively for decades. It is generally the veterinarian’s drug of choice for soft tissue inflammatory conditions (sore muscles) and is considered kinder to a horse’s stomach than phenylbutazone (bute) for treating joint swelling. Banamine is also a good choice for horses that have a tendency to tie-up. The Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has stated, “Class 4 or 5 therapeutic medications (mostly NSAID-type medications such as Phyenylbutazone) are used to ease the aches and pains of training – akin to a person taking an Advil before or after a competition. It will not make that individual run any faster or jump any higher than his or her natural ability to do so.” For those concerned about the welfare of the horse, NSAIDs, when used as prescribed, do not put a horse at substantially elevated risk of catastrophic injury. So if you are a racing commissioner and you believe it is necessary to set a standard for Banamine, the question you should ask is straightforward: at what level is the analgesic benefit of Banamine essentially negligible? Whether or not Banamine might have some residual benefit to inflammation should be irrelevant, since good veterinary practice has already established that reductions in inflammation often speed healing. If a horse is not receiving an analgesic effect, it would be hard to argue the drug is performance enhancing. THAT is the level at which we should set the standard. Most vets and pharmacologists agree that any post-race level below 50ng/ml and a withdrawal time of 24-hours from administration will completely ensure elimination of the analgesic effect Racing is governed for the most part by politically appointed boards and commissions. The commissions are not normally filled with experts on pharmacology, and they are often at the mercy of long-time administrators, people like Rick Arthur in California, Joe Gorajec in Indiana, and Dan Hartman in Colorado. These are the people who populate the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI), a group on the record as calling for “the racing industry and member regulators to embrace a strategy to phase out drugs and medication in horse racing.” (ARCI Press Release March 28, 2011) The chairman of the ARCI at the time of that press release? Dan Hartman, Executive Director of the Colorado Racing Commission. He becomes an integral part of Bill Brashears story. In that press release Hartman is quoted as saying that “a five-year phase out [of Lasix] is reasonable to bring North American racing policies in line with what is going on in other parts of the world like Europe and Hong Kong.” Hartman’s successor, William Koester, Chairman of the Ohio State Racing Commission, added, “Today over 99% of Thoroughbred racehorses and 70% of Standardbred racehorses have a needle stuck in them four hours before a race. That just does not pass the smell test with the public or anyone else except horse trainers who think it necessary to win a race. I’m sure the decision makers at the time meant well when these drugs were permitted, however this decision has forced our jurisdictions to juggle threshold levels as horseman become more desperate to win races and has given horse racing a black eye.” Koester’s statement is meant to inflame (no pun intended) by referencing needles stuck in horses, as if it was some willy-nilly attempt to torture helpless animals. When I was shadowing Doug O’Neill I watched his vet, Dr Ryan Patterson, administer a Lasix shot and if you had blinked you would have missed it. The horse had no negative reaction at all. Koester further pounds home the point that trainers are medicating their horses only to gain an advantage and win races, seemingly arguing they are not doing it to ensure the horse’s health is being managed so that it can race without distress. Not passing the smell test and black eye for racing are the justifications for trying to make all racing drug free. It reminds me of a quote from Arnold Glasow. “The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.” As long as administrators with the power to make the rules for racing insist the seamy underbelly of racing is legal therapeutic medication, it can become the facts. The press release states that ARCI intends to move toward “enacting a policy of zero-tolerance.” (Note: Once Koester took over as chair, he quickly backed off that statement, stating the ARCI does not subscribe to a policy of zero-tolerance, but bear in mind it was Hartman who approved the press release.) Hartman concludes, “We regulators are the only voice in racing for the animals and betting public. It’s time we raise the bar in service to both.” To reference the famous Pogo line, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” I have already written about why we cannot be Hong Kong (http://halveyonhorseracing.com/?p=910). Basically, North America runs more races in a week in August than Hong Kong’s entire racing year. To populate those races we need ten times the number of horses in training than Hong Kong does. How does North America compare with Dubai and its 23 racing days a year? I’ll go out on a limb and say if we were racing at a couple of tracks the equivalent of three weeks a year we could have Dubai’s drug policies too. Look at the standards for Europe or Australia. Other than Lasix, there is often not a significant difference between those jurisdictions and North America for therapeutics, and some threshold levels for therapeutic medications are even higher than the ARCI standards. The upshot of the zero-tolerance Dan Hartman favors is almost certainly the demise of small tracks and reduced field size at the tracks that survive, incredibly ironic when one considers one of the small tracks that would suffer is Colorado’s own Arapahoe Park. ARCI has relied on studies commissioned by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) to establish post-race residual levels and recommended withdrawal times. In the case of Banamine (flunixin), a study done by Heather Kynch, Rick Sams, Rick Arthur, and Scott Stanley on how quickly flunixin was cleared in exercised horses provided the initial recommendation on which the flunixin standard was based. They tested one model (called the sedentarymodel) in which four non-exercised horses were tested and it was determined a probable threshold level of 20 ng/mL with a withdrawal time of 24 hours. For those not familiar with the nanogram (ng) it is a billionth of a gram. However, subsequent testing using a racehorse model took 20 horses in training and determined exact plasma concentrations of Banamine, concluding that 99% of horses would have less than 50 ng/mL, and thus recommended a threshold value of 50 ng/mL 24 hours after administration of the recommended dose. If 20 sounds like a small number for testing animals to set a standard, according to the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products study on the Evaluation of Medicines for Veterinary Use (2000), 19 is the minimum number of animals that need to be tested to conclude a 95% confdence level that 95% of the population will be below a respective standard. Think about this for a minute. Like a lot of ARCI standards, the testing is not to determine at what level a medication stops being performance enhancing (or retarding) but at a level at which almost all horses would have cleared all but a residual amount of the medication by some time in the future. Remember, the ARCI objective as plainly stated by Dan Hartman in 2011 was to eventually rid thoroughbred racing of the scourge of “drugs and medication.” It also points out something else that is critical when looking at new standards – the availability of new mass spectrometers that can measure ridiculously small amounts, even less than nanograms down to picograms – trillionths of a gram. As Dr. Steven Barker said to me once, “show me a lab measuring amounts in picograms and I’ll show you a lab with an expensive new machine they need to justify.” Despite the RMTC study recommendation, the ARCI in April 2013 adopted the 20 ng/mL (with a recommended 24-hour withdrawal time) standard. It is critical to note that even at the time ARCI adopted the standard it was cast as a “95/95 standard.” As noted above, this means there is a 95% level of confidence that 95% of the horses tested would fall below the standard. In plain terms, one in 20 horses would still be expected to fail a post-race test. By that measure, if a track tested the first and second place finishers of a ten race program, and they all had been given 10 cc’s of Banamine, at least one of them had a probability to come back over the standard. Think about this. ARCI had a chance to adopt a standard (50 ng/mL) that would have all but guaranteed no undeserved positives and no performance enhancement, and instead picked a standard where non-pharmacologically merited violations would abound. Dr. Steven Barker at LSU didn’t equivocate on the adoption of the original ARCI standard. “The Banamine standard is too high, and it is because ARCI didn’t pay any attention to pharmacologists. With the recommended dose, there is no analgesic effect 24 hours after administering Banamine.” So with Dan Hartman at the helm, Colorado adopted the ARCI therapeutic medication schedule of 20 ng/mL for Banamine and in March 2014 the Colorado Racing Commission staff and the track stewards had a meeting with the veterinarians who worked on track at Arapahoe Park. Dr. James Dysart, Bill Brashears’ veterinarian in Colorado, and a vet who has been practicing about as long as Bill Brashears has been training horses, was in attendance at that meeting and asked specifically about what treatment changes would be indicated in 2014. According to Dr. Dysart, he was clearly told, if you practice as you did last year there should be no problems. With regard to Banamine, in March Dr. Dysart was told 10 cc’s with a 24 hour withdrawal time would prevent positives. So when it came to Banamine Dr. Dysart did exactly as he did the year before and by July Bill Brashears had three Banamine positives. There were six positives in all in Colorado and half belonged to Brashears. I asked Dr. Dysart why there were not more positives, and based on his practice, he indicated many trainers had thrown in the towel and switched to bute. Whether the reason was the change in flunixin standard, cost or efficacy, trainers made the switch. After Brashears was hit with the first Banamine positive, he and Dr. Dysart huddled and decided to drop the dosage by 20% to 8 cc’s and increase the withdrawal time closer to 25 hours. Amounts and times for all horses are documented on the medication sheets maintained by Dr. Dysart, and there is no disagreement that the dose that was administered had sufficient withdrawal time based on the information Dr. Dysart was given in March. After Brashears had five horses test clean after the first positive, he figured they had found the right formula. Unfortunately, this turned out not to be the case. Brashears was informed that two horses that raced about 10 days apart in July came back positive (both under 30 ng/mL), even after receiving the 8 cc dosage. Brashears had no way of adjusting dosage or withdrawal time for the third horse since the results of the testing for the second horse had not yet been given to him. In fact, Brashears was informed of the last two violations at the same time, well after he could have made a further adjustment. Based on that Brashears expected the second and third violations to be combined into one. Until he was given notice of the last two positives, Brashears sensibly was given a warning after the first violation, made a documented adjustment in an effort to comply, and as far as he could see had success with the new protocol, so he stuck with it, not realizing at 20 ng/mL he was still in danger of a violation. Meanwhile something interesting happened at the RMTC. The high number of Banamine positives in different jurisdictions in 2013 caused them to reexamine the 20 ng/mL standard ARCI had adopted. Remember, the initial RMTC testing suggested 50 ng/ml would ensure 99% of the horses treated appropriately would test negative, and at best with the 20 ng/mL standard ARCI adopted we would still expect 5% positives. It turned out the reality was alarmingly beyond 5% positives. RMTC then did another study that included 16 horses (less than the 19 required for statistical validity) that were exercised under laboratory conditions, and four (25%) of the 16 showed residual levels over 20 ng/mL after 24 hours. But, given the umbilical tie between ARCI and the RMTC, rather than suggest the standard was wrong, it was determined the withdrawal time was too short. In fact, the subsequent RMTC study concluded at least 32 hours was required to maintain 95/95 compliance with a 20 ng/mL. In April 2014 ARCI revised the recommended withdrawal time for flunixin a mere year after originally adopting it, but left the 20 ng/mL in place. This was a critical conclusion because changing the withdrawal time instead of the residual standard ultimately would have the effect of eliminating the therapeutic value of Banamine. At 24 hours the analgesic effect is essentially gone, and approaching 32 hours really limits the anti-inflammatory effect. In other words, this could be seen as an indirect way to ban Banamine consistent with the ARCI stated goal. This was also critical because the ARCI standard was not actually either 20 ng/mL or 32 hours, it was simply 20 ng/mL. Regardless of when Banamine is administered, 24 hours or 32 hours, if the level is over 20 ng/mL the horse is in violation. According to Dr. Dysart, veterinarians in Colorado were not told the recommended withdrawal time had changed to 32 hours until July. Since the 32 hours was nothing more than a recommendation, there was no need to provide notification of rulemaking. That would only be necessary if the standard was proposed for revision. The new recommendation came too late for Brashears though. He had to hope the Colorado Racing Commission saw that he and his vet had done everything the Commission assured them would maintain compliance and be lenient with their punishment. Brashears asked for split samples to be tested for the second and third violations, and both confirmed he was over the 20 ng/mL standard (but well below 50 ng/mL). Brashears appealed, resting his case on the fact that his veterinarian did exactly what he had done hundreds of times and was assured he could continue doing it before the season without risking a violation. In front of a hearing officer he lost and on he went to his final appeal to the Colorado Racing Commission. Brashears’ attorney made the relevant arguments, and once the testimony and final arguments were completed the Commission voted on a motion to saddle Brashears with both the second and third violations as separate events. One of the five commissioners was absent from the hearing, and the vote on the motion was 2-2, which normally would have been a win for Brashears. In a rare occurrence, the Commission moved to go into executive session where they got the missing commissioner on the phone, and re-voted on the motion. When they came back Brashears had lost his appeal 5-0. I asked Dan Hartman if this was a regular practice. He said no, but the Assistant Attorney General was consulted and opined it was a perfectly legal procedure. It was never clear exactly what happened to go from 2-2 to 5-0, but Brashears was ultimately assessed a $1,500 fine and 15 days. One of the people privy to the discussions in the executive session suggested that the Commissioners were advised that letting Brashears off the hook could leave them vulnerable to a subsequent action by Brashears. The concern was that it would essentially be an admission that Colorado had committed an error by leading the veterinarians to believe either historical protocols were sufficient for compliance or that a 24-hour withdrawal time indicated compliance. Brashears is not new to the game, and he understood a violation, even if it is for a bad standard, is a violation. Despite believing he had done nothing wrong, he was willing to bargain with the Commission, offering to pay a fine (less than the $1,500) if the days were waived. It appeared the Commission wanted nothing less than what Brashears was ultimately given. Bill Brashears has paid an even higher price than the fine, the loss of purse money and the cost of an attorney. He’s lost clients. After all, owners don’t want to be associated with someone with a medication positive, regardless of the circumstances. He’s lost the ability to even make a living during his suspension. Most of all he’s lost some of his belief that if you do right by racing, racing will do right by you. For Brashears part, he has sworn off racing again in Colorado. He is firm in his belief he didn’t cheat, and that he was the pawn in a bigger battle over medication in racing. In the end, Colorado not only will lose a long term trainer, but a guy who cares about his horses and about training them the right way. It’s hard to imagine this was a success for anyone. I asked Bill Brashears what bothered him the most. He said, “What makes me the most upset is [Arapahoe Park General Manager] Bruce Seymore telling me at the first Commission meeting that he knew I was innocent but that they were going to hang me anyway. I believe Hartman knows I’m innocent but their grand plan of Colorado being medication free would go down the tank if their first experiment went so wrong. Spending thousands of dollars in attorney fees for their screw-up and I’m still doing 15 days and being fined $1,500 and the division [the Colorado Division of Racing] calling it trainer responsibility. Where’s their responsibility?” Author - Rich Halvey
The Racing Integrity Unit has filed an application with the Judicial Control Authority (JCA), for a breach of Rules 1004(1A) and 1004D of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing. They are requesting the disqualification of Ventimiglia (trainers A P and L M Neal) from Race 2 at the Waikato Harness Racing Club’s Meeting held at Cambridge Raceway on 30 January 2015. This follows confirmation that a post-race sample taken from Ventimiglia had tested positive to a prohibited substance. As the matter is now the subject of a JCA hearing no further comment will be made. Mike Godber
The Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) announced that it will begin working with the horse racing industry to develop a practical and appropriate response to the testing for cobalt. The ORC plans to move in a timely manner through its existing Out-of-Competition Testing (OCT) Program. It is noted that the addition of a cobalt threshold would be communicated to the industry prior to implementation. Out-of-Competition testing of cobalt Ontario Racing Commission
On Thursday 12 March 2015, Harness Racing New South Wales (HRNSW) Stewards concluded an inquiry into reports received from the Australian Government National Measurement Institute (NMI) that Cobalt above the threshold was detected in post race urine samples (the “A” sample) taken from horses presented to race by trainer Mr Dean McDowell CHEVALS CHARLIE following its win in race 2, the Schweppes 30th Anniversary Pace (1740 metres) and THE TWILIGHTDANCER following its win in race 3, the Australasian Young Drivers Championship Heat Eight (2140 metres), both conducted at Bankstown on 28 February 2014. Subsequent to the reports provided by NMI, the “B” samples and associated controls underwent confirmatory analysis at the ChemCentre in Western Australia. The ChemCentre confirmed the presence of Cobalt above the threshold in both urine samples. The inquiry was informed by Mr Dean McDowell’s legal representative, Mr John Murphy of Counsel, that his client Mr McDowell refused to attend the Inquiry. Consequently, HRNSW Stewards conducted the Inquiry in the absence of Mr McDowell. After considering the evidence before them, HRNSW Stewards issued 2 charges against Mr McDowell pursuant to Australian Harness Racing Rule 190(1), (2) & (4) that he did present CHEVALS CHARLIE and THE TWILIGHTDANCER to race at Bankstown on 28 February 2014, not free of a prohibited substance, namely Cobalt in excess of the threshold of 200 micrograms per litre in urine (ug/L). HRNSW Stewards found that the charges issued against Mr McDowell were proven. Stewards note that Rule 190 imposes liability upon a trainer where a horse does not present free of any prohibited substances, regardless of the circumstances in which that substance came to be found in the horse, such that it is not necessary for it to be established how the prohibited substance came to be present in the horse. Mr McDowell was disqualified for a period of 4 ½ years in respect of each charge pursuant to Australian Harness Racing Rule 190(1), (2) & (4) to commence from 30 April 2014, the date upon which he was initially stood down pursuant to Rule 183.Stewards ordered that both penalties be served concurrently. In considering penalty Stewards took into account a number of relevant considerations including: This was Mr McDowell’s first offence for prohibited substance offences;Cobalt above the threshold is deemed a Class 1 substance under the HRNSW Penalty Guidelines;The level of Cobalt recorded was 550ug/L & 570ug/L;Mitigating factors such as Mr McDowell’s licence history, and other subjective facts. Acting under the provisions of Rule 195, which requires disqualification of a horse presented not free of a prohibited substance (regardless of the circumstances), both CHEVALS CHARLIE and THE TWILIGHTDANCER were disqualified from their respective races. As a result of Mr McDowell’s refusal to attend the inquiry, despite previous directions to attend, a further charge was issued against Mr McDowell pursuant to Australian Harness Racing Rule 187(1) & (7) for failing to attend the inquiry in accordance with a direction by Stewards. Mr McDowell has provided written submissions in response to the charge. Mr McDowell has lodged an appeal with the NSW Racing Appeals Tribunal against the decision of the Stewards pursuant to Rule 190, and has made a further application for a stay of proceedings. - HRNSW Media
COLUMBUS, Ohio - In remarks made before the Board of Directors of the United States Trotting Association this past weekend, Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) President Ed Martin indicated that he expected regulators would set a uniform approach on cobalt when they meet in Tampa, Florida, at meetings held April 21-23, 2015. Martin predicted that the regulators would act to set in motion a ban on intentional cobalt administrations out of equine welfare concerns and the possibility of performance enhancement. Horses found with elevated cobalt levels would be excluded from competition until such levels subsided. Trainers of horses with cobalt levels indicative of an intentional administration would face sanctions and suspension. "Regulatory veterinary staff in several jurisdictions have received complaints and/or observed instances where a cobalt administration has caused distress and colic in horses, causing cramps and muscle twitching, sweating, and pain," said Martin. "We are obviously concerned about the use of cobalt with the belief that it will enhance performance. But while the published science is not fully settled at what point that actually happens, we believe it is wrong to deliberately put a horse in discomfort absent a compelling medical reason to treat a serious ailment or injury. This issue is about the horse and not just about doping," he said. The RCI Executive Committee met last week and was unanimous in its desire that a uniform approach be adopted to prohibit cobalt administration in a way that does not impact those who have not deliberately administered it. RCI's Drug Testing Standards and Practices Committee will meet on Thursday morning, April 23, 2015 to consider options on cobalt regulatory thresholds. Recommendations from RCI science advisors as well as other organizations such as the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) will be considered. In addition, Dr. Terrance S.M. Wan, the head of the Racing Laboratory and Chief Racing Chemist for the Hong Kong Jockey Cub, will be participating in the RCI meetings. Dr. Wan is the author, along with others, of a 2014 study entitled "Controlling the Misuse of Cobalt in Horses". The Association of Racing Commissioners International is the only umbrella organization of official rule making entities dealing with the totality of all professional horse racing. The ARCI sets standards for racing regulation, medication policy, drug testing labs, tote systems, racetrack operation and security, and off-track wagering entities. Its members are the only independent entities recognized to license, enforce, and adjudicate matters pertaining to racing. Steve May
Craig Demmler’s appeal against Harness Racing Victoria stewards’ decision to suspend his trainer and driver’s licences has been dismissed by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board. The decision was made by HRV stewards under the provisions of Australian Rule of Harness Racing 183. The suspension was imposed pending the outcome of an investigation into an analytical report that one of Demmler’s horses had returned an elevated raceday cobalt level that was in excess of the relevant threshold permitted by the rules. At the hearing, the HRV RAD Board heard submissions on behalf of HRV Stewards and Demmler. The HRV RAD Board also heard from Dr Richard Cust regarding the nature of the substance cobalt. The HRV RAD Board noted they were required to decide whether the decision of the HRV stewards was justified in all of the circumstances, and after considering all of the matters before it, ordered the stewards’ actions were justified. The HRV RAD Board accordingly dismissed Demmler’s appeal and the restrictions imposed upon Demmler remain in place. HRV Media