04/07/2009 11:00PM

Ban for cobra venom upheld


A hearing officer for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has concluded that the commission acted within its rights when it suspended the veterinarian Dr. Rod Stewart for five years for a variety of medication violations surrounding the discovery of cobra venom, a neurotoxin, in a barn at Keeneland Racecourse in 2007.

In a report released by the commission on Wednesday, the hearing officer, Robert Layton, said that testimony from 11 witnesses supported the commission's contention that Stewart had violated rules regarding the labeling of medications and possession of prohibited substances.

In addition, the report stated that the commission handed down a penalty that is consistent with its regulations, including the right to add extenuating circumstances during the consideration of the penalty.

Stewart appealed the length of the suspensions last year seeking a reduction, and testimony in the appeal was heard on Dec. 2 and 3.

According to the report, during a search of Stewart's vehicle at Keeneland on June 22 and a barn used by Patrick Biancone, investigators found three vials of cobra venom, tablets of medications used to treat Parkinson's disease in humans, and an unidentified substance labeled RTF.

Under testimony, according to the report, Stewart said that he was given the unidentified substance by a trainer in South Africa, and that he did not know what the chemical composition of the substance was.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will vote on whether to accept the hearing officer's recommendation at its meeting in May or June, according to the commission's executive director, Lisa Underwood.