05/17/2010 12:00AM

Mullins sues California board


Jeff Mullins, a leading California trainer, has filed a lawsuit against the state's racing board and the board's officers that accuses regulators of violating his due-process rights and other abuses when it recently handed down a 30-day suspension to the trainer for a 2008 overage of alkalinizing agents.

The lawsuit, filed on May 14 in San Diego Superior Court, claims that the board failed to protect Mullins's due-process rights by allowing biased witnesses to testify against him and by failing to establish strict guidelines for when blood can be pulled from a horse to test the sample for excessive levels of total carbon-dioxide.

In addition, the lawsuit says that the racing board violated its own rules when the it changed an aspect of the penalty handed down to Mullins without a hearing, among other accusations.

A spokesperson for the board, Mike Marten, said that the board had not received a copy of the lawsuit by Monday afternoon.

The suit was filed five days after Mullins began serving the 30-day suspension for the overage, which occurred on Aug. 3, 2008. At the time, Mullins was operating under the terms of a one-year probation agreement with the racing board after a horse he trained tested positive for the banned painkiller mepivacaine in 2006.

The board is currently attempting to schedule a hearing to consider whether a 70-day suspension should be tacked on to the current 30-day suspension for violating the terms of that probation. Under that agreement, Mullins served 20 days of a 90-day suspension for the mepivacaine positive, with the remainder stayed as long as he did not violate the state's medication rules over the next 12 months.

In asking for a stay of the board's decision, the lawsuit refers to the possibility that Mullins's suspension will be increased to 100 days.

"Such a lengthy suspension would be catastrophic to Mr. Mullins' career as a professional horse trainer," the lawsuit states. "In addition to the substantial loss of business it would create, such a lengthy suspension also carries with it significant reputational harm."