Horse Vet Appeals Cobra Venom Suspension

     (CN) – A Kentucky equine veterinarian has challenged his five-year suspension from horse racing for possession of cobra venom and drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease in humans.

     In May the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission upheld the suspension of Dr. Rodney Stewart, who was initially disciplined in 2007 in connection with the seizure of banned substances from thoroughbred-trainer Patrick Biancone’s barns at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington and Stewart’s vehicle.
     Investigators found three sealed vials of Alpha-Cobratoxin, a Class A medication under the commission’s rules, in a cooler belonging to Stewart. They also found levodopa and carbidopa, drugs often used in combination to treat the shakiness and stiffness associated with Parkinson’s disease.
     Stewart filed a petition for judicial review in Franklin Circuit Court, questioning the commission’s final order, saying that the length of the suspension is too long for a first offense and that the commission’s drug rules are “vague and overbroad.”
     Stewart also claims that cobra venom is a not a dangerous substance.
     “The commission ignored significant evidence set forth by Dr. Stewart, including but not limited to the fact that snake venom has a recognized therapeutic use in horses, and that, at the time of the search, it was not only approved but recommended for use in standardbred horses by the commission’s own regulations,” the action states.
     But that is inconsistent with the commission’s findings. In a statement released after the suspension was upheld May 12, it said that “the penalties were imposed in connection with the possession of the most highly dangerous substances and serious violations of commission regulations, which represent a catastrophic threat to the safety of both horses and riders.”
     Stewart is represented by Michael Meuser of Miller Griffin.

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