10/01/2012 2:16PM

Louisiana commission bans trainers up to 10 years for dermorphin

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The Louisiana Racing Commission late Friday suspended three Thoroughbred trainers for three years each after hearing testimony during a two-day hearing last week over a spate of positive tests in the state for the potent painkiller dermorphin.

Keith Charles, Lyi Lomond, and Anthony Agilar were given the suspensions after cooperating with investigators looking into the positives and promising to assist in further investigations, according to Charles Gardiner, executive director of the commission. Technically, Agilar was given two three-year suspensions after two of his horses tested positive for dermorphin, but the commission said that the penalties could be served concurrently.

Gardiner said the suspensions for the trainers “could go up or down” based on whether the trainers cooperate in the future. The three trainers had blamed a veterinarian for administering the drug.

Five Quarter Horse trainers also were give lengthy suspensions after the hearings. Alvin Smith, who had a previous Class 1 violation on his record, and John Darrel Soileau, who had two horses test positive for dermorphin, were each given 10-year suspensions. The maximum sentence that the commission could approve was a five-year suspension for each violation.

Two other Quarter Horse trainers, Michael Heath Taylor and Alonza Loya, also were given five-year suspensions for one positive each for dermorphin. Gonzalo Gonzales, another Quarter Horse trainer who testified that he was only a “program trainer” for the horse that tested positive, was given a three-year suspension, Gardiner said.

The eight trainers had all been levied six-month suspensions by Louisiana stewards for the positive tests. The two-day hearing held Thursday and Friday was to hear appeals by the trainers and consider additional sanctions because stewards in Louisiana cannot hand down suspensions longer than six months.

Attorneys for the trainers said that they expected to file appeals to the penalties through the civil courts within the next 30 days, Gardiner said. The commission levied fines against the trainers and also ordered that purses from the races be redistributed to reflect the disqualifications of the horses that tested positive.

Dermorphin, which is an opioid that is derived from a substance naturally produced as a skin secretion by some species of South American tree frogs, is a Class 1 drug, prohibited in all racing jurisdictions. Racing laboratories began detecting the drug this summer in multiple racing jurisdictions, including New Mexico, after tweaking a test designed to detect the drug. Since the spate of positives, findings of the drug have dried up.