12/02/2009 1:00AM

McLaughlin accepts 30-day ban for drug positives

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Tuesday night that he has accepted a 30-day suspension from Kentucky's stewards after three horses he trains tested positive for trace levels of a prohibited bronchial dilator during the October Keeneland meet.

The suspension began Tuesday and will end Dec. 31, McLaughlin said. Horses trained by McLaughlin are entered under the name of his assistant, Arthur Magnuson, for the Thursday card at Aqueduct. McLaughlin, 49, is one of the country's most prominent trainers and is based in New York.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission posted the rulings against McLaughlin on Wednesday morning on its website. The rulings stated that three separate horses that raced at Keeneland between Oct. 9 and Oct. 23 tested positive for ipratropium bromide, a bronchial dilator that relaxes lung tissues, and that McLaughlin would be allowed to serve three concurrent 30-day bans because the positive tests were all communicated to McLaughlin at one time, rather than sequentially.

According to the rulings, the horses who tested positive were Bluegrass Princess, the winner of the Grade 3 Valley View Stakes on Oct. 23; Liston, the winner of an allowance race on Oct. 9; and Hatheer, who finished third in a race on Oct. 15.

Ipratropium is not allowed to appear at any levels in a horse's postrace drug tests in Kentucky. In a statement issued by McLaughlin on Tuesday night, he said that the levels were not "pharmacologically significant and did not affect or compromise the horses' performances."

In an interview, McLaughlin said he decided to accept the penalty to avoid any lengthy appeals.

"There's never a good time for days, but I didn't want to fight it and drag it on for months and months," he said. "We could have gone a lot of different ways with it, but this is the way I chose."

McLaughlin said that his veterinarian advised him to cease using the product 48 hours before a race. He said he followed those guidelines and used the medication on horses in his barn that had a "bronchial reaction to hay dust."

McLaughlin said in the statement that he has asked the racing commission to test blood samples to determine if the drugs were administered within 48 hours of a race.

The Kentucky Racing Commission lists ipratropium as a Class B drug. Class B drugs are typically medications that are known therapeutic agents but nevertheless have a high potential to impact a horse s performance. In Kentucky, the recommended penalty for a first offense of a Class B medication is a suspension of zero to sixty days although the commission is free to consider mitigating or extenuating circumstances in issuing the suspension.

McLaughlin said that the commission treated the three positive tests as a first offense because he was informed of the positives at the same time. Commissions have often treated multiple positives as a first offense when dealing with multiple positives that are communicated at the same time.