03/15/2013 3:51PM

Letters to the Editor March 17

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Trainer's penalty for medication use lacking in muscle

I am shocked that Aqueduct's leading trainer, Rudy Rodriguez, has been suspended for 20 days recently by New York's gaming board for two drug infractions committed over the past year ("Rodriguez suspended, fined," March 15).

The 20-day penalty was supposed to be for 40 days, but was cut in half if his horses don't fail another drug test in the next year. Why should that be? This is the third time that his horses have tested positive for the same drug, the anti-inflammatory flunixin.

Most importantly, though, is the fact that these horses will stay in the Rodriguez barn while he is suspended. They will race under the name of his brother and assistant, Gustavo Rodriguez.

This is an action that has been copied across the country by trainers like Steve Asmussen, Doug O'Neill, and others who just race the same horses in the names of their assistants and has turned the sport into a cynical laughingstock. When this suspension is over, Rodriguez will get his horses back while his owners have raced those horses all along with his brother. We can assume Rudy will not see any benefit but we can't prove it.

The only way to hand out a just penalty is either to mandate that all of an offender's horses be transferred out of the barn of the penalized individual into the barn of another trainer for the length of the suspension, or require all of the horses under the care of the penalized trainer to be disallowed from racing for the duration of the penalty.

This would send a clear and stern message that cheating will not be allowed. It makes the trainers, their staff, and the owners who use cheaters share the pain. It would require those who repeatedly break the rules to face up to their mistakes. This will clean up the sport in a heartbeat. The worst thing about letting cheaters off the hook is that those who play by the rules don't have a fair shot.

In baseball, if Melky Cabrera is suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs, he cannot send his brother to bat for him at the plate. Horse racing shouldn't allow similar tactics.

Meyer Cohan - Rye, N.Y.