Silence not necessarily golden in Oklahoma dermorphin probe
Horses racing in Oklahoma earlier this year were the first to test positive for the powerful drug dermorphin, but the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission has kept a tight lid on details surrounding the 15 horses detected with the drug in their system by Industrial Laboratories of Colorado.
No horses, trainers, or veterinarians have been named, no complaints filed, or hearing dates announced. All that has been confirmed is that 15 horses racing at Oklahoma tracks tested positive for dermorphin, a Class 1 drug whose origin is found in tree frogs of South America, thereby earning it the nickname “frog juice.” The races were run in April and May and it is believed refereed split samples were sent to Louisiana State University’s testing lab for confirmation several months ago. The LSU lab separately detected a number of dermorphin positives for horses racing in Louisiana.
Silence from the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission does not mean these cases are not going to be prosecuted, according to Mary Ann Roberts, staff attorney for the regulatory agency.
“The commission has declined to comment further to the media about cases which have not yet been adjudicated,” Roberts wrote in response to questions about the alleged frog juicers. “The fact that we have refrained from speaking to the press should not be interpreted as indifference.
“Obviously,” Roberts continued, “these cases are of paramount importance to the horse racing industry and the public. Certainly you understand that commenting on a case publicly, prior to the case being heard in a proper forum, can be detrimental to the outcome of the case. Unquestionably, it would be a disservice to jeopardize the integrity of theses cases.
“In order to obtain a just result, it is important to refrain from discussing details of cases prior to hearing. Only at the conclusion of all litigation would it be appropriate for a member of the OHRC to publicly comment about any case which has been adjudicated by the agency.”
Most racing states will file complaints and make them public when a split sample is returned confirming the presence of a prohibited drug. Some states will even name the horse, trainer, and prohibited drug before the split samples are confirmed.
I understand the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission’s reluctance to discuss circumstances or reveal details of their investigation.
However, if the regulatory agency has received split-sample confirmation of the presence of dermorphin in post-race samples, and the trainers involved in those positive tests are continuing to run horses at tracks in Oklahoma tracks and other states, then the fans who support this game at the pari-mutuel windows have the right to know who the alleged cheaters are.
To keep this most basic information sequestered does a disservice to the game.