06/20/2012 3:41PM

Louisiana likely to impose longer ban on Quarter Horse trainer for dermorphin violation

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A six-month suspension levied by stewards at Delta Downs to a Quarter Horse trainer for a positive finding of the pain-killing drug dermorphin has been referred to the Louisiana Racing Commission for additional penalties, the executive director of the commission said on Wednesday.

The case has been referred to the commission because the stewards in Louisiana are restricted to handing down a maximum six-month suspension, according to Charles Gardiner, the commission’s executive director. The minimum recommended suspension for a drug like dermorphin – a potent opioid with morphine-like effects – is one year, and the trainer who was issued the suspension, Alvin Smith, was suspended 13 years ago for two positives of a drug in the same potent class.

“This is a case in which the aggravating or mitigating circumstances are going to come into play,” Gardiner said, referring to the ability of commissions to impose suspensions beyond the recommended minimum if a trainer has a history of drug violations. “There’s obviously no place in racing for something that is 40 times more powerful than morphine.”

Smith is the first trainer to have been issued a suspension for dermorphin, which began appearing in post-race drug tests in at least two states, Louisiana and Oklahoma, approximately three months ago. The Louisiana Racing Commission has confirmed that the state has called 11 positives for the drug – four in Thoroughbred horses, and seven in Quarter Horses – from a total of nine trainers.

Smith’s horse tested positive after finishing second in the $225,000 Laddie Futurity at Delta on May 26. The purse has been ordered redistributed. In 1999, Smith was suspended for seven months after two of his horses tested positive for Aramine, a stimulant that was making its rounds in the Louisiana Quarter Horse community.

Several officials with knowledge of the tests have said that Oklahoma has called 15 positives, but officials for the commission, including on Wednesday, have refused so far to confirm the findings. The spate of dermorphin positives – which have dried up in the past week, after word began circulating on backstretches that a test existed to catch the drug – has led to speculation that other states in the south would soon confirm positive results.

However, lab directors and racing officials representing Texas, California, Indiana, Washington, Idaho, and Nebraska all said on Wednesday that they had not detected dermorphin in any post-race test despite sometimes “intense” efforts to find the drug over the past several weeks and, in some cases, months.

“The word gets around the backstretch a lot faster than it gets to the newspapers,” said Norm Hester, the director of Truesdail Labs, which conducts testing for several states. “I’ll be surprised if I find somebody at this point.”

The exception was New Mexico. Al Kind, the director of the testing laboratory at Iowa State University, which does testing for the state’s tracks, said he could not comment on the results of any of the lab’s drug tests, and he referred questions to the New Mexico Racing Commission. Vince Mares, the executive director of the commission, had not returned a phone call by late afternoon on Wednesday.