To Centrifuge or Not: New Spin on TCO2 Charge

by | 08.08.2013 | 7:42am
Karl Broberg

Karl Broberg, currently the nation's second-leading trainer by wins, is facing possible sanctions for an alleged TCO2 violation from Jan. 26 at Sam Houston Race Park in Texas. Broberg, who began training in 2009 and ranked fifth nationally by wins in 2011 and fourth in 2012, is already unable to race at some tracks because of medication violations in 2011 and 2012 that led to a suspension of his privileges with The Jockey Club, effective Jan. 1, 2013.

A hearing was conducted on Broberg's case, but the Texas Racing Commission continued the matter after attorneys for Broberg said the blood sample taken from Jerry Namy's Storm's Promise – who finished 8th of 10 runners in the $75,000 Champion Energy Services Stakes – was degraded because it was not centrifuged (spun) on-site before being sent to the Texas A&M Medical Diagnostic Laboratory for screening.

Storm's Promise, a stakes-placed 4-year-old filly by Seattle Fitz, had a TCO2 reading of 42.9, well above the 37.0 millimoles per liter threshold level in Texas. Another horse racing on the same Jan. 26 Sam Houston program featuring four stakes, including the inaugural $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, tested above 37.0, but a hearing has not been held and the commission would not release the name of the horse or trainer.

TCO2 overages are often referred to as milkshakes, a once-common practice that involved tubing a mixture of liquids and baking soda into a horse's stomach to reduce lactic acid buildup. Other methods were developed to bring up the TCO2 levels without tubing a horse. Testing for TCO2 levels has dramatically reduced the incidence of milk-shaking. Texas tests all horses in listed and graded stakes races and may test horses in other races, but the racing commission would not confirm how many horses are tested regularly.

“I brought the case defending this because it didn't happen,” Broberg told the Paulick Report. “Plain and simple. It did not happen. The horse was not milkshaked. If somebody is milkshaking horses, they probably are doing it with every horse in the barn. I had two horses in the race. One tested good and one had this.”

Mark Fenner, general counsel for the Texas Racing Commission, and executive director Chuck Trout confirmed that the time of centrifugation of the test sample is the reason the case was continued. The race in question was held on a Saturday night and the samples were tested on Monday, they said, less than 48 hours after being taken.

A “best practices” statement from the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium said samples should be tested within 120 hours “in order to limit sample degradation.” However, the RMTC document states, testing outside that 120-hour window may result in decreased TCO2 values, not an increase. The RMTC's “best practices” does not address centrifugation.

Centrifugation, according to a chemist contacted by the Paulick Report, is generally done to “ensure separation of blood cells from plasma/serum and to prevent hemolysis (rupture of the red blood cells), which can lead to degradation of some components.” The chemist said degradation “generally results in less of something, and I am not aware of any literature on TCO2 that demonstrates an increase in TCO2 levels following sample degradation, only decreases.”

Texas used to centrifuge blood samples, but then stopped, according to Dr. Ken Quirk, chief veterinarian for the racing commission. “We haven't done it in a number of years,” Quirk said. “We got advice that it wasn't necessary and was counter-productive.”

Broberg contends other test results, such as potassium levels of Storm's Promise, were extremely high.

“It was very clear,” he said, “that if you believe all the readings that the Texas Racing Commission brought forward, that horse would be dead. That was confirmed by both sides of the table. That should have been the end of it.”

Broberg, who has been excluded from Remington Park because of The Jockey Club suspension of privileges, said he is getting “a horrible reputation for a couple of Bute overages and a couple of DMSO overages. We pride ourselves on not having a bunch of vet bills. That's the reason I got into the business.”

Broberg, a Chicago native, was an owner before taking out his trainer's license in 2009. He owns many of the horses he trains. He's won 168 races in 2013 from 645 starters, second only to Steve Asmussen.

The Jockey Club suspension of privileges came after he received a 2011 phenylbutazone overage in Louisiana in 2011, three DMSO overages in Oklahoma in 2011, and a phenylbutazone overage in Arkansas in 2012. All are considered minor violations of therapeutic medications.

In an Oklahoma lower court ruling earlier this year upholding Remington Park's exclusion of Broberg and several other trainers, Judge Bill Graves wrote that a horse trained by Broberg in Texas tested positive for the Class 1 drug dermorphin, but the presence of the powerful substance (aka frog juice) was not confirmed in a split sample and no complaint was filed. “After this, the Texas Racing Commission discovered a vet going into Broberg's stalls with four loaded syringes,” Graves wrote. “Broberg was not charged, but the vet was.”

Broberg said he has spent $10,000 on the TCO2 case, which he calls a “frivolous deal,” and he's upset the hearing was continued by the Texas Racing Commission.

“Every bit of enjoyment has been completely drained from the sport for me,” he said. “Lone Star Park has the same owners as Remington Park, and they let me run at Lone Star. My trainer's license is valid in Oklahoma and I'm running a few horses in Tulsa (Fair Meadows). I'm still bitter over this deal at Remington Park. It's cost me money and clients, and it's costing me future clients.”

  • Richard C

    Ryan Braun found a sympathetic ear to initially beat the system through a “flawed” process. And the end result was his lies finally caught up with him. This industry seems to have the flaws down to a science to make sure inconvenient truths can just fade away….depending on who’s name is on the piece of paper.

    • Brian Schartz

      At the risk of playing the role of Aaron Rodgers in this analogy, I will step up and defend Karl on this forum. I have had the pleasure of knowing him for the last 18 months, and he has trained a couple of horses for me. Prior to engaging him, I gave him the same spiel I give all the trainers I engage. Namely, I care about the health and welfare of my horses first. I always emphasize that I prefer to never to win a race than to have my trainer cheat even once. We have had conversations about my distaste for training-by-vet, and I can tell you that the quotes spelled out above are the same responses I personally receive from Karl. His actions back up those words: My vet bills for horses under Karl’s care are as low or lower than any other trainer that I have ever used. The cynic may say it is getting buried in the day rate, but Karl’s rate is on par with others training on these circuits.
      Given my philosophies, the noted alleged positives in the article and in the comments all demanded questions and answers, and Karl has been nothing but forthright with me about all of them.
      Karl has a large barn that is split amongst several tracks. He is an active and aggressive claiming trainer. He is also aggressive in placing horses and generates a high winning percentage as a result. All of those factors conspire to make Karl an unpopular guy at a lot of places. My reputation is already on the line because I retain Karl’s services and my name shows up on the program page right alongside his, but I’ll stick my neck out further and say I think Karl Broberg is not one of the bad guys we need to eradicate from the sport.

      • cardcat21

        Good enough for me. Let him go on about his business and shut this forum down. Thanks, Brian.

  • Stanley inman

    Simple observation;
    How can someone be “second leading trainer”
    And be
    Suspended by jockey club for medication violations

    • nu-fan

      Stanley: You are dead on in this observation!

    • RayPaulick


      I’m glad you’re not phrasing that in the form of a question to me. “Dysfunctionality for $500 please, Alex!”

    • Mimi Hunter

      You are right on – and that is the main thing that has to be changed. Keep rewarding cheating and it’s not going to stop.

  • randy

    I think he had 7 DMSO tests at RP made a deal or at least that’s the rumor. Didn’t the split get lost on the frog juice? Poor Missunderstood Karl!

  • 14151617

    Not my fault.Testing not good,somebody else did it,vet charged not me,horse should be dead,on and on.
    What is wrong with racing you ask?

  • Guy Fleegman1

    Another nail in the coffin of Horse Racing….pathetic

  • norman chennault

    Not everyone loves a winner. Seems there is a lot of jealousy in the sport of kings. Take a look at Brobergs horses and how they usually out shine the others on the track and continually out perform them.and you will most likely see why. Drugged and over medicated horses do not continue to look and perform this well over any amount of time as those under his care seem to do. Others maybe should look to his feeding and training program and attempt to emulate it rather than constantly slamming him.

    • You people are serious?

      Yeah you guys, listen to Norm, he hit the nail right on the head. It is the superior feeding and training programs and not the illegal use of medications that have done this. Anybody that thinks that this particular trainer has ever, EVER given anything but the finest, super secret nutrients and exercise regiment to his horses is just a stupid hater and should probably just go play in traffic.

  • SAL

    Randy, have you ever managed a barn of horses?? DMSO is a topical analgesic and an antioxidant. Can it be misused…? Yes, using it as a platform for drug transmission will not mask the drug in a test. DMSO and Bute are everyday therapeutic medications used in EVERY barn. All athletes, human and animal, will occasionally need pain meds or anti-inflammatories.

    As is noted above, “minor violations of therapeutic medications”. Do you have any idea how many pro athletes get jacked up over OTC allergy meds, etc–things we all take every day and that are not abused, just “present in the system”?
    Don’t know about the TC02 case, but it’s a one-off. A trainer with a large string that has some routine OTC violations of therapeutic meds is not a dishonest trainer. At most he’s guilty of not paying attention to the attrition rates on the OTC meds.
    For all you haters out there so quick to judge people, the next time you sprain your ankle or wake up sore from overexertion, don’t take any aspirin or ibuprofen, don’t put any Ben-Gay on your sore muscles—then we’ll talk.

    • 14151617

      Don’t work or enter your horses if they are sore enough to have to have pain meds.OTC or otherwise.

      • Hossracergp

        So essentially you’re advocating that racing be abolished?

        • 14151617

          Where did that come from?If they are on powerful meds that reduce pain then don’t work or race them until they don’t need it to work.Let them heal first.That is not abolishing racing only looking after the horse.

          • Hossracergp

            You really don’t understand it do you? A racehorse without any diagnosable injury is still going to experience pain and discomfort due to the fact that the are racing and training. Time off to heal is not going to benefit the animal unless it has an injury. There seems to be some disconnect in that people on chat boards can’t recognize that part of being a race horse is being able to deal with pain. It’s been discussed ad nauseum how horse at the track are trained and then made to stand in a 12×12 stall for 23 hours a day but that is how it’s done. At best it’s an unnatural situation, so why add to the misery by making them suffer unnecessary discomfort that can be relieved by therapeutic meds such as bute, dmso and baking soda for muscle soreness? It’s not their proper use that’s the issue, it’s the abuse of them. Saying just turn them out till they don’t need anything, is unrealistic and doesn’t help the horse in the long run. Therapeutic meds are not narcotic pain relievers. Therapeutics have a place in making the day to day life of a racehorse more comfortable. Seems to me like that is looking after the horse, not just looking away from the issues that racing and training create.

          • Hopefieldstables

            Omg the irony, it starts from sentence #2 and just builds.

          • betterthannothing

            You are dangerous and a reason why about 3 out of 1,000 starters die racing.

      • betterthannothing

        Right on!

    • randy

      Sal, well I do know more than the average joe my husband is a trainer and Ive had an asst. trainer liscense for quite some time. I know exactly what DMSO is used for and how it’s administered with that said maybe they are being a little harsh on poor Karl but he likes to push the limits and got caught! I feel sorry for the vet ( who I know) that was suspended trying to do what he was told!

      • Larry Ensor

        The Vet was asked to do something that was against the rules and got caught. Not sure why anyone should feel sorry for him. I would be sorry that he used poor judgment.
        Reminds of something my parents would say to me when I did something wrong with my friends offering up the excuse; “they asked me to do it”, and my parents would say; “what if they asked you to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge?”

    • Stanley inman

      Hey sal,
      We arnt haters
      What’s the point of rules if all you clowns get to decide when
      You want a
      Free pass
      If you ain’t big enough to follow the rules of the contest
      Park your behind in the stands and watch how it’s done.

    • cardcat21

      Gee Sal, way to try to talk down to a poster and throw a bunch of red herrings out there. Your arguments about human athletes using therapeutic meds and comparing it to trainers using them on equine athletes overlooks just one thing: IT’S AGAINST THE FREAKING RULES!
      And if you are a trainer with a large string of horses with habitual medication overages (those pesky rules again), then maybe you should cut your string of horses down to a more manageable level.
      Milkshake positives are also not a “one-off”, it simply is the first time he was caught with one. Do you really believe that this would be the first time he has milkshaked a horse? Uh-huh.
      Oh, and I am not necessarily a hater, but I do get sore from exercise, and if my place of employment, you know, my livelihood, had a rule that stated they could test me for ibuprofen or ben-gay and if I tested with over a certain amount in my system I would be fired, I might just pay a little more attention to that.But hey, those rules are in place for other people, right?

  • 4Bellwether666

    Got to put a lid on this drug deal once and for all in Horse racing…Looks like the Fed will do it for them…Sooner the better…

    • Austin Brown

      I agree 100% we need federal oversight . Majority of all racing commissions
      have no clue as to what they are doing. Arizona Department Of Racing for one
      doesn’t do a anything with repeat drug violations . If you were to report
      something you had witnessed the ADOR they will target you.

      You Have the CHRB ,TRC,OHR,LRC that are all dysfunctional , until the
      Federal gets involved the corruption will continue.

      • betterthannothing

        A strong privately run authority supported by the USADA and FBI would be fantastic to vastly improve equine protection and racing.

      • peter

        I have to agree with you on this one. Most of the racing commissions need to be overhauled along with their regulatory veterinarians. Easier to ignore, keep the cushy jobs and pick a few to go after in order to justify their jobs. Racing needs an overhaul but is federal oversight the answer?

  • noname

    A few years back the State vet told the Texas commission that there was NO scientific evidence to support TCO2 testing (Google it), but Texas apparently got swept away by the national frenzy by horse-ignorant regulators to “do something”. If regulators cared about the welfare of horses and about scientific inquiry more than they cared about public relations, it would be a far different world. All this ado over nothing when there are still 40% trainers at nearly every track. This poor trainer is seriously in trouble over a handful of baking soda? Shame.

    • C’mon man

      See, the rules are stupid and need to be changed, thus this trainer did nothing wrong. Thanks for clearing that one up for us.

  • Thevoiceoftruth69

    This is the type of Ahole we don’t need in sport.

  • betterthannothing

    “After this, the Texas Racing Commission discovered a vet going into Broberg’s stalls with four loaded syringes,” Graves wrote. “Broberg was not charged, but the vet was.”

    What was that about? Why was the vet charged but Broberg was not? Was he Broberg’s vet? What were those four syringes loaded with? Four syringes for how many horses? On race-day? Is that vet still around?

  • Arson Squad

    Ray, have you and your daughter kicked your drug problems yet?

Twitter Twitter
Paulick Report on Instagram