Trainer Linda Toscano told harnessracing.com on Thursday morning that she has received a positive test for the Class 2 drug levamisole with its metabolite pemoline on her horse Forever Just on July 22 at Tioga Downs, and that she has agreed to sanctions of a 10-day suspension and $1,500 fine by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board (NYSRWB). Toscano has also written a letter to the harness racing community explaining the situation, and that letter can be found below.
Harnessracing.com ran a story on Dec. 6 noting that the NYSRWB had issued rulings against seven trainers for levamisole positives, but Toscano was not named at the time. Levamisole is used mainly as a wormer in horses. Both Jimmy Cruise Jr. and Chuck Connor, two of the seven trainers, told harnessracing.com that the positives came as a result of the threshold level being reduced without notice, which meant that the withdrawal time was extended. The published withdrawal time for levamisole is 72 hours. Cruise, Connor and most of the other trainers have appealed their sanctions.
In addition to Toscano's letter, a letter written by Dr. Gregory S. Dey DVM, who administered the levamisole to Forever Just, was sent to the NYSRWB. In that letter, Dr. Dey noted that he administered the drug to the horse in excess of 100 hours of him racing at Tioga on July 22 and stressed that Toscano "had nothing to do with the administration of this medication and I administered this medication believing I was well within established guidelines.” More of Dr. Dey's letter can be found below Toscano's letter.
To: The Harness Racing Community
I'm writing to let you know that one of the horses in my care, Forever Just, tested positive for levamisole following a race at Tioga Downs on July 22. The therapeutic drug, used mainly as a wormer and immuno stimulant, was administered four days—in excess of 100 hours—before the race by Dr. Gregory Dey, one of the industry's most respected veterinarians, who believed, at the time, that the use of the drug on the horse was legal.
"Levamisole has always been safe, from a withdraw from race standpoint, when administered outside of 72 hours prior to a race,” Dr. Dey has stated to regulators. "This is a time frame that I have used through my 24 years of veterinary practice without ever having a problem.”
Dr. Dey has accepted responsibility for this regrettable situation. He has told regulators that I had nothing to do with the administration of this medicine on this horse. And neither Dr. Dey nor I were aware before this incident that the administration of this particular medicine more than 100 hours before a race was not permitted.
Under the trainer responsibility rule, however, I am responsible for the results of this test. I accept that. And I have been working behind the scenes for the past few months with New York's regulators, veterinarians and other industry leaders to help clarify the rules for the administration (and testing) of these sorts of drugs so that these sorts of situations don't occur again. I will continue to do so now, and call on anyone else who is interested to help as well, so that all of us better know and understand the rules and regulations as they are going to be applied.
I know that there are other people in our industry who are in a similar situation as I am. I cannot presume to speak for them. While I have been advised by an attorney that I could successfully appeal this ruling, I have decided to accept the regulators' punishment, which they consider a "minor” infraction, and take whatever lumps, otherwise, come my way. I am very sorry that this has happened. My owners, especially, understand how much both this sport and my integrity mean to me. In the spirit of full disclosure, I wanted to get this information out to you all before any year-end voting takes place or is counted. I wish you all a safe, happy and healthy holiday season.
Sincerely, Linda Toscano
Excerpts from Dr. Dey's letter to the NYSRWB:
"It has been brought to my attention that there are several levamisole and pemoline positives currently in NY racing. I find this interesting because I have worked with racehorses in this area for more than two decades and do not recall a prior levamisole positive in NY. I surmise that the NY Testing Lab has developed a more sensitive test for this medication. I am all for strict testing of our racehorses, but the racing community needs to know that this is occurring and that the guidelines that have been set forth to us are deficient. Obviously, the withdraw time for levamisole is much further than those currently listed in your guidelines.
"Forever Just has been tested before and after the July 22 race. Those post race samples were negative for levamisole and pemoline. Logic dictates that this was a single positive test associated with my administration of levamisole on July 18.
"Finally, I have worked with Ms. Toscano for at least 15 years. In my opinion, she is a knowledgeable, honest horse trainer with a tremendous amount of integrity. She would never treat a horse inappropriately to gain an unfair advantage in a horse race. I chose to treat Forever Just with levamisole believing that I was well beyond the documented withdraw time. If you believe that you have a valid positive test, in this instance, blame me, not Ms. Toscano.”