Controversy in Florida Over Clenbuterol Positives
The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association is at war with the state's regulatory body, the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, over what FHBPA executive director Kent Stirling said are more than 125 positive tests for clenbuterol. Clenbuterol is a bronchodilator originally used to treat respiratory problems that became a commonly administered drug for horses in training.
At issue is exactly when the drug needs to be withdrawn from horses scheduled to race.
“It had been a five-day withdrawal time forever,” said Stirling. “But then they came up with a flock of positives at the end of the year, a majority at Tampa Bay Downs, some at Gulfstream, a few at Hialeah and a couple at the harness track.”
Stirling said he asked the testing lab at the University of Florida and the DPMW if the withdrawal time had changed.
“Rather than put it in writing, they called me and said not to worry, there would be a ‘happy resolution,'” Stirling said. “Well, our positives are upwards of 125, maybe more. They are calling them below 25 picograms, which had been the standard for much of the country. The lab started calling things they've never called before, even in the single digits. Apparently, the Division has a zero-tolerance policy now, meaning there is no withdrawal time. I am very unhappy with the Division and we are not going to roll over dead on this one.”
Stirling said he's telling trainers to allow at least 14 days withdrawal time, but that might not be safe under zero tolerance and the variance in testing results between blood and urine.
Among the trainers charged with multiple violations is Kirk Ziadie, who had five horses racing at Calder test positive for clenbuterol between July 4 and Sept. 27, 2012. A sixth horse racing at Gulfstream Park tested positive for the drug March 13, 2013.
Ziadie was banned from Calder by track management from August 2009 until September 2011 after numerous medication violations and not paying his bills to vendors. He is Calder's leading trainer with 26 wins from 55 starts during the current meeting, a strike rate of 47%. All but one of the Ziadie horses testing positive for clenbuterol are owned by Frank Calabrese.
On Feb. 26 of this year, Joseph Helton, chief attorney for the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, filed an amended complaint against Ziadie, listing six 2012 positive tests (including one Butazolidin overage) and recounting 14 previous Florida medication violations on Ziadie's record. Helton is calling for an administrative hearing that could lead to stiff fines, purse redistributions, suspensions or even a license revocation of the trainer, pursuant to Section 550.1155 of Florida statute.
No hearing date has been set as both sides are going through the discovery process.
Attorney Bradford Beilly, who is handling Ziadie's case, says the trainer is being singled out and that all of the clenbuterol positives are at levels less than 25 picograms.
“The state, for whatever reason, has decided it's time to take away Kirk Ziadie's license,” Beilly said, “even though the positives are less than any recognized threshold amounts and they are for therapeutic medications.
“As a general proposition, I've never seen a situation where the state has attempted to use a series of Class 3 violations to revoke somebody's license.”
A spokesman for the Division would not comment on the case.
The complaint against Ziadie comes at a time when the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium has approved a “points system” that, similar to the points accrued on a driver's license for moving violations, would incur heavier suspensions for multiple violators. Such a system would discourage trainers who currently may look at fines for overages of Class 3 and 4 drugs as the “cost of doing business.”
However, for the so-called Multiple Violation Penalty (MVP) system to work, it will have to be adopted in all states, and guidelines for withdrawal times on drugs like clenbuterol will have to be uniform. For more on the MVP system, click here.