Horse-Doping Suspension Unfair, Trainer Claims

     (CN) – Challenging the 15-day suspension he faces for overmedicating a race horse, a world-renowned trainer says New York regulators trampled his due-process rights.
     William Mott filed the federal complaint Wednesday in Central Islip, N.Y., against New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the New York State Gaming Commission, 11 commission officials including the chairman and the New York Drug Testing and Research Program at SUNY Morrisville.
     Mott describes himself as a master horse trainer, and the youngest trainer to ever be inducted into the National Thoroughbred Hall of Fame in 1998 at age 45.
     His trainee Drosselmeyer won the 2010 Belmont Stakes and the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic, and his trainee Cigar won the inaugural Dubai World Cup with a purse of $5 million, according to the complaint. Mott says he has won or tied for leading trainer at a New York race meet at least 19 times, and is widely respected as one of the top thoroughbred trainers in the world.
     In his 40-year career, none of Mott’s horses has ever tested positive for an illicit substance, he claims.
     But last year Mott was fined when commission authorities found flunixin and furosemide in the blood of the horse Saratoga Snacks.
     Claiming that these two drugs are lawful therapeutic medications, Mott says it is not illegal to treat horses with these drugs, but only for a horse to race with the medication in its system in excess of an unpublicized threshold.
     Mott claims a veterinarian administered the drugs 29.5 hours before the scheduled post time for the race, a period several hours before the mandated withdrawal time.
     Sarasota Snacks nevertheless tested positive for being over the legal threshold, and the commission punished Mott by suspending him for 15 days and issuing a $1,000 fine, according to the complaint.
     Mott claims he was denied a “scintilla of due process,” because the commission failed to take a large enough blood sample for Mott to conduct his own test to exonerate himself. A urine sample can only indicate the presence of the drugs – not whether the drugs were over the allowable threshold.
     Dr. Stephen Barker, the director of the Equine Medication Surveillance Laboratory (EMSL), Louisiana’s official horse-racing drug-testing lab, filed an affidavit on Mott’s behalf, according to the complaint.
     Mott says “Dr. Barker makes clear that both flunixin and furosemide are regulated in the New York rules of racing based on the concentrations observed in urine, which is all the EMSL confirmed, does not support and cannot be construed to support the concentrations reported by the New York laboratory in plasma.”
     “In sum, the mere presence of flunixin and furosemide in urine, which is all the EMSL data show, is not a violation,” the complaint continues.
     Submitting a blood sample to an independent lab is critical to ensuring the commission’s decision is subject to scientific scrutiny, Mott says, adding that many other states collect primary and secondary samples to ensure trainers are given the chance to defend themselves.
     “Without split sampling and referee testing of blood, the medium by which the calculated and called, the commission is simply saying, ‘Trust us, you lose,'” the complaint states.
     Mott seeks an injunction against the suspension and penalty, claiming that the violation will tarnish his career, pin a “Scarlet Letter” to his reputation, and lose him lucrative clients who may hesitate to retain a “drug” trainer.
     Mott is represented by Andrew Mollica in Garden City, N.Y.

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