Owner-trainer Kim Veerhusen has been suspended two years and fined $1,000 by the Nebraska State Racing Commission after one of his horses tested positive for dermorphin, the highly potent painkiller also known as frog juice. The drug was detected by Truesdail Laboratories in the horse Cheatin Cowboy, who finished second in a July 15, 2012, race at Horsemen's Park.
Dermorphin is a Class 1 drug under classifications developed by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, making it among the most dangerous and nefarious medications used to enhance performance in a racehorse. It originates from the secretion of South American tree frogs and has been used by tribal hunters to stay awake for days at a time. A synthetically manufactured version is said to be at least 40 times more powerful than morphine.
Stewards at the Nebraska track previously fined Veerhusen $1,500 and suspended him the balance of the Nebraska racetrack's 2012 meeting, plus 10 days, the maximum permitted. The case was then referred to the commission, which met on Wednesday. Veerhusen's suspension runs through Aug. 4, 2014.
Tom Sage, director of the Nebraska State Racing Commission, said commissioners could have suspended Veerhusen a maximum five years and fined him up to $5,000. He deferred comment on the penalty to the panel's chairman, Dennis Lee. Lee was not available for comment at his Omaha law office.
Racing commissions in Louisiana, New Mexico and Louisiana have also dealt with dermorphin positives, suspending trainers on average five years for each positive test, with some suspensions up to 10 years per violation.
Phil Hanrahan, president of the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said last year after Veerhusen's suspension by stewards that “dermorphin is a true ‘cheater' drug. Trainers who use it should be severely punished.”
Veerhusen, brother of Nebraska Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association president Todd Veerhusen, has not started a horse since being suspended by stewards in August. He won 28 of 156 starts in 2012 and has 240 lifetime wins from 1,490 starts.
Veerhusen has 10 other medication violations in Nebraska since 2005, according to ThoroughbredRulings.com. Three of those violations came in 2012, including the Class 1 violation for dermorphin.
Cheatin Cowboy had finished off the board in five consecutive starts for owner-trainer Philip Oviedo at Turf Paradise in Arizona from January to March 2012. Apparently purchased privately after his final Arizona start on March 10 by Veerhusen, Cheatin Cowboy then rattled off two consecutive second-place finishes and two wins at Fonner Park and Lincoln Downs in Nebraska. After an eighth-place finish at Prairie Meadows in Iowa, Cheatin Cowboy returned to Nebraska where he finished second in the July 15 race where frog juice was detected.
Cheatin Cowboy has not raced since the July 15 contest in which the dermorphin was detected.
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