In his “View From The Eighth Pole” commentary published on March 11, Paulick Report publisher Ray Paulick took issue with how the Minnesota Racing Commission has handled methamphetamine positives in recent years, including the case of a trainer who had two methamphetamine violations in a four-year period. The editorial, “Regulatory Fairness Left in the Starting Gate in Minnesota,” referred to our ruling as “unfair” and “ridiculous.”
In the recent case, an administrative law judge heard six days of testimony and reviewed dozens of exhibits. He was in the best position to weigh the evidence. The judge concluded the trainer's “fixation” with the starting gate crew as a source of contamination was “unfounded speculation” not supported by the evidence. The record showed that the entire starting gate crew had passed pre-employment drug screens less than a month before Carson's Storm's race. The starter who handled Carson's Storm had no history of drug use. Video evidence showed the horse was in the gate for mere seconds and nothing unusual occurred. Experts familiar with racing throughout the country testified they were unaware of an assistant starter ever causing a positive test, and the judge found that there had never been such an instance of contamination in the history of Canterbury Park. And even the trainer's own expert witness suggested that, since the trainer was responsible for two of the four methamphetamine positives at Canterbury Park dating back to 2014 (out of 5,873 horses tested), “he's got someone around him who basically is using or exposed to methamphetamine.”
The trainer had two methamphetamine positives despite having sent very few horses to the test barn over this four-year period. If the gate crew was contaminating horses, one would expect many more positive tests from many different trainers. In fact, in the cases of all other Minnesota trainers with methamphetamine positives, the likely source of contamination was traced back to individuals in the trainers' barns and not the gate crew. Those trainers all accepted responsibility for the violations.
As regulators we owe it to our horsemen and the betting public – not to mention the animals themselves – to ensure that horses are not running with methamphetamine or other prohibited substances in their systems.
Positive drug tests, whether the result of contamination or intentional doping, are a detriment to all participants because they undermine the safety and integrity of our sport. That is why trainers are required to protect their horses from contamination to the extent they control their environment. Understanding that contamination is sometimes unavoidable, we do provide trainers every opportunity to demonstrate that they took reasonable steps to prevent it. In this case, the trainer chose not to reexamine his practices after a first methamphetamine positive, but rather to point fingers at the commission and the gate crew. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, that response likely led to a second methamphetaminepositive.
The case record can be found here:
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