After many years and court battles over New York trainers' struggles in get split samples in medication cases, horsemen in the state were notified this week a guaranteed split sample program is in the works. The announcement in the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association newsletter indicated the state's gaming commission is in the process of finalizing a plan with NYTHA to mandate collection and storage of plasma samples to be kept in case a trainer requests a split sample for confirmatory testing after receiving notification of a positive test.
Split sample testing is part of due process in nearly all racing jurisdictions. Test barn personnel pull blood and urine from horses according to post-race procedures, and the testing laboratory for the state is expected to store the remaining plasma or urine sample until the sample is cleared. If a horseman is notified of an overage, he or she is typically given the option to order part of the remainder, the “split,” to be sent to an approved lab of their choosing for a second opinion.
“Everyone is in agreement on this,” said NYTHA president Rick Violette, Jr. “We are now working through the particulars such as where the samples will be stored, what equipment is needed and when it will be implemented.”
As the Paulick Report revealed in 2015, Hall of Fame conditioner Bill Mott is the latest in a line of trainers who have been told, upon requesting a split sample, that none was available. Other trainers were told that when the split they requested was mailed to the lab they selected to do the testing, there was insufficient volume of plasma present to conduct a new set of tests. In some cases, the remaining sample was simply discarded. Experts indicated New York was the only jurisdiction to repeatedly have issues providing a split sample.
Drew Mollica, the attorney representing Mott in an administrative and civil case stemming from two 2014 overages, credits his client with the new program.
“If the implementation goes through as they say, it should be called the Bill Mott rule,” said Mollica. “The only reason this issue has come to the fore is because of Bill Mott's courage and commitment to the cause.
“In America, you get a chance to confront the evidence against you.”
Mollica cited a case from the early 1990s in which lawyers officially raised concerns about New York's inconsistent fulfillment of split sample requests. The courts at that time ruled the state's inability to provide a requested split at the time did not qualify as acting in bad faith because the commission had not previously been alerted to any problems storing or maintaining split samples.
“Since January of 1992, they have known. There's no dispute, from 2004 to 2014, almost 50 percent of the time when people requested an independent test from an independent lab, there was almost no plasma left,” said Mollica.
Mott was handed a suspension and a $1,000 fine for overages of flunixin and furosemide in Saratoga Snacks after a Sept. 20, 2014, race at Belmont Park. Mott was told the horse's furosemide levels were 10 times the legal limit, despite a third-party veterinarian having administered furosemide at one third the permitted dose, per Mott's instructions. Mollica said Mott is still in court in administrative procedures over the original fine and suspension, and he has also filed a civil suit against the New York State Gaming Commission. He doesn't know when either case will reach a conclusion.
“In racing it's so hard for people to get through the day, much less to take on the big issues,” Mollica said. “Most trainers are just trying to get from Monday to Tuesday. Bill never dreamed he'd be in the position he's in. When he found out, he just said to me in his very pragmatic manner, ‘This is not right. Do what you have to do.'”
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