Ten Louisiana-based horses test positive for powerful opiate painkiller

by | 06.14.2012 | 4:09pm

Ten horses representing eight different trainers have tested positive in Louisiana for the Class 1 drug dermorphin, a powerful pain-killer said to be nearly 40 times more potent than morphine, Bob Fortus reported today in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

According to the report, positive tests traced to both Quarter horses and Thoroughbreds, with three racing at Evangeline Downs, six at Delta Downs, and one at Louisiana Downs.

The Drug Testing Standards and Practices Committee committee of Racing Commissions International (RCI) voted last July to add dermorphin to its list of Class 1 drugs. Class 1 drugs have no accepted medical use in horseracing and have a very high potential for altering performance in a horse. According to RCI, vials of the substance were discovered by racing investigators and testing labs put on notice last year.

Dermorphin is a hepta-peptide that is a natural opiate. In its natural state, the drug can be extracted from the skin of certain South American frogs. A synthetic version of the drug is more likely to be used as a painkiller in horses, chemist Steven Barker of the LSU laboratory told Daily Racing Form.

“It's hard to imagine someone is making this much by squeezing the backs of frogs,” Barker told Daily Racing Form. “It'd be a lot easier to synthesize it.”

“This drug in horses is an abuse of the horse,'' Barker told the Times-Picayune. “This puts the horse's life in danger. It puts the jockey's life in danger. This is an attempt to cheat. This is bad stuff. This is doping.''

Names of the trainers and horses have not been made public while split samples are in the process of being tested for confirmatory purposes.

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