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Reduced threshold causes NY positives

December 06, 2012

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The New York State Racing and Wagering Board (NYSRWB) over the past few weeks has issued rulings against seven trainers for positives for the Class 2 drug levamisole with its metabolite pemoline, used as a lung wormer in horses. There are also at least two additional positives which have not yet resulted in formal rulings.

Harnessracing.com has talked to some of the trainers, who have nearly immaculate records, who claim that the threshold level was lowered without notice, which meant that the withdrawal time was extended, and that resulted in the positives. The published withdrawal time for levamisole is 72 hours.

"I gave mine 80 hours out to be sure. All of a sudden, without anyone knowing, there is a new test and you've got to give it a week (168 hours) out,” said Jimmy Cruise, currently at his winter-training base at Reveille Farms in Florida, of his Aug. 4 positive at Tioga Downs on his horse Dangerismybusiness. "We've been using this as an immune stimulant for years after horses have been sick. We got this from a vet who dispensed it with instructions for using it within the guidelines. We have all the vet records.”

Cruise was fined $1,000 and suspended 20 days, but he has appealed.

"I'm not going to plead guilty when I didn't do anything wrong,” said Cruise. "I don't know how you can be penalized for using medications per the guidelines.”

Chuck Connor Jr., who received a levamisole positive on his horse Bettor's Reward on July 28 at Yonkers and has appealed the ruling, agrees with Cruise.

"It's not performance-enhancing; it's for the well-being of the horse and the health of a horse,” said Connor, who was given a $1,000 fine and 15-day suspension. "It didn't even enter in my mind a withdrawal time because it was something like 100 hours out. It never entered my mind and I was dumfounded.

"I've done nothing wrong. I am only minding the welfare of my horse and now I'm getting tortured for it? I don't believe I should be.”

Connor said he purchased a $10 tube of levamisole and divided the dosage equally between two horses, including Bettor's Reward.

"Whenever I bring horses in from the field that have been turned out for an extended period of time or getting ready to turn them out, I will often go through a program and give them a half of a tube,” he said. "I had a horse race on Monday night who was getting turned out, and I knew the other horse who was racing was going to be turned out. I gave the one half of the tube and turned around and gave the other half to Bettor's Reward. That was on Tuesday, the horse raced on Saturday night, and came up positive.”

Connor said after the NYSRWB test results came back from the lab at New York's Morrisville State College, he sent a split sample to Louisiana State University, which also came back over the reduced threshold level put into place by the NYSRWB.

"This isn't helping our game and it makes some of our horsemen look like they have done something wrong when they did nothing wrong,” said Standardbred Owners Association of New York president Joe Faraldo. "And the Racing Board takes the opportunity to level a penalty and fine against these people, and it's just out of order.

"There are people in this game who want to play games, but for the most part these people are administering therapeutic medications. You made them permissive medications, so how do you do that and say ‘Ah ha, I got you now.' To me this does not enamor you to be respected by me nor the industry, because you are not doing us a service; you are just making it appear you did something.”

The other trainers who have received recent positives for the administration of Levamisole and the presence of Pemoline, a metabolite of Levamisole are: Dave Dewhurst, Eric Felter, Steve Flanigen, Michael Pokornowski and Megan Wilson.

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