A week before Christmas, I read about a ruling issued by the Minnesota Horse Racing Commission (MHRC) that I believe bears further scrutiny. Without explanation, the MHRC entered into a settlement agreement with a trainer of a positive test for substantially less that the national standard for such a drug.
I don’t know, but here’s some background.
The MHRC’s official equine testing laboratory, Industrial Laboratories, found a drug called Cardarine (aka GW-501516) in a sample from a horse that won the $100,000 Mystic Lake Turf Express Stakes on Aug. 25, 2018, at Canterbury Park. The horse, Bushrod, is trained by Judd William Becker.
According to the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) Recommended Penalties Model Rule, a positive test for Cardarine calls for a minimum one-year suspension and a $10,000 fine.
What penalty did the trainer receive?
A 180-day suspension (reduced to 90 days if the trainer does not get a Class 1, 2, or 3 positive test within a year) and a $2,500 fine.
In other words, the effective penalty is likely to be only one-quarter of the recommended minimum.
We all know what minimum means — but as a refresher let’s go to the English Oxford Dictionary.
Minimum: The least or smallest amount or quantity possible, attainable, or required.
Synonyms include lowest level, lower limit, bottom level, bottom, base, least, lowest, rock bottom, slightest, depth, nadir.
Of these terms, “rock bottom” is my favorite. The trainer’s likely penalty is 75% less than rock bottom.
According to the December 17, 2018, account by T.D. Thorton, (click here) writing for the Thoroughbred Daily News:
“DiPasquale said that although he could not discuss details of the negotiated settlement beyond what appears in the rulings, he could confirm that the MRC did not consider the positives to be the result of any accidental (i.e., from the hands of a groom) or environmental (like tainted feed) contamination.”
Tom DiPasquale is the executive director of the MHRC.
If the positive test was not a result of accidental or environmental contamination, then why a significantly reduced penalty?
Cardarine is a serious drug that has no business in a racehorse.
According to Dr. Richard Sams, “Cardarine, originally identified as GW-501516, was developed in the 1990s to treat various metabolic and cardiovascular diseases but trials were halted when it was demonstrated that it caused cancer to develop rapidly in certain tissues in animal studies. In 2007, Cardarine was demonstrated to dramatically improve physical performance of mice. Based on the effects of Cardarine in mice, WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) declared it and related substance to be prohibited substances.”
Dr. Sams has served as a laboratory director responsible for equine drug testing at Ohio State University, University of Florida, and most recently, at LGC Laboratory in Lexington, Ky.
Dr. Sams said, “Cardarine was never approved for use in treatment of any animal or human diseases. It is not subject to abuse by humans, so it is not a controlled substance and is readily available for “Research Purposes” from Internet sites.”
Just a Click Away
Finding the nexus between Cardarine and horse racing, as Dr. Sams claims, is as simple as a Google search. That’s one reason that it was bound to surface in a horse’s sample at some point.
Such a search turned up an Internet site that markets Cardarine for racehorses as the “ULTIMATE ENDURANCE ENHANCER” claiming its benefits to include:
- Gives insane energy levels.
- Decreases recovery time.
- Will get immediate, noticeable results: literally on the first dose.
- Provides one of the cleanest energies. It’s not a stimulant, so your horse won’t crash or feel anxious at all.
- The ability to run for as long as 12 weeks. Your horse will get better and better results the longer they take it.
- Is versatile – can be stacked with virtually anything.
- Can be used while cutting or bulking. Cardarine will accelerate your horse’s results.
- Gives an overall sense of health and well being.
This should surprise nobody. For the last two decades, it has been no secret that procuring illicit drugs was a click and a credit card away.
Below Rock Bottom
How did the drug get into the stake’s winning horse at Canterbury Park? I don’t know.
Does the MHRC know?
In over 20 years as the executive director at the Indiana Horse Racing Commission very few penalties for positive tests deviated from the RCI Recommended Penalties Model Rule. On those few occasions, the mitigating circumstances were always available to the public. We knew that, without sound justification and support documentation, the horsemen and racing fans would assume the worst.
Embracing transparency is always the best approach.
I am not familiar with the rules and statute of Minnesota. I don’t know if the commission can’t explain their decision or won’t explain their decision. There is a difference.
For now, they appear to be taking a position that regulators usually take only prior to a decision being made.
That is, they reserve their right to remain silent.