08/18/2008 11:00PM

Racing board investigators raid Sadler barn

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DEL MAR, Calif. - John Sadler, the leading trainer at Del Mar's summer meeting, had his barn raided by investigators of the California Horse Racing Board on Monday, a Del Mar official confirmed, and comments Tuesday by the chairman of the state racing board led to speculation that authorities might have been searching for signs of anabolic steroids.

Racing board investigators generally visit a trainer's barn after a drug sample comes back positive. The racing board will not acknowledge a positive test, however, until a split sample comes back positive, too. That split sample is usually tested following a barn raid.

California is in the process of eliminating steroids as a medication that can be used legally for racing. The board started testing for them in July and has gradually started phasing in penalties. Trainers who had a horse test positive for steroids in July were simply notified by letter of the violation. This month, if a horse tests positive, the violation goes on their record, and there is public notification.

Beginning on Sept. 4 - the day after Del Mar's meet closes - steroid violators are subject to more stringent penalties, including suspension of the trainer and loss of purse for the owner. Those rules will be in effect for this year's Breeders' Cup, Oct. 24-25, at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.

Sadler did not return a phone call on Tuesday seeking comment.

Dr. Rick Arthur, the racing board's equine medical director, said Tuesday at a meeting of the racing board's medication committee that in July, 38 of 418 steroid tests were found to be in violation. Of those 38, however, "17 were with one trainer, and 11 with a second trainer," Arthur said.

"Two trainers have been responsible for 70 percent of the violations for anabolic steroids at Hollywood Park and Del Mar," Arthur said. "The rest are a trainer here and there."

Speculation that the racing board's investigators were at Sadler's barn looking into a steroid violation was fueled by comments made Tuesday at the medication committee meeting by Richard Shapiro, the chairman of the racing board.

"Just look at the top of the trainers' and owners' list," Shapiro said while waving a sheet of paper.

Gary and Cecil Barber are the leading owners at Del Mar. Sadler is one of the trainers they employ.

Regarding the phasing in of penalties for steroid use, Arthur said, "If I had to do it over, I'd do it differently."

"Frankly, we gave the trainers more credit than we should have for being ethical," Arthur said. "Trainers playing by the rules are getting the short end of the stick. We have actually seen horses treated three days before a race in the past week.

"It's unfair to the wagering public and the trainers and owners who are playing by the rules."

Shapiro said he believes "two or three people have taken an abusive, screw-you attitude."

"The people we're talking about are well informed and intelligent," Shapiro said. "They are using this window to say screw everyone, they don't care. They're not that naive.

"Trainers have received letters. Two trainers have received multiple, multiple, multiple letters. The owners have received the letters, too."

"There was a grace period - no harm, no foul," said John Harris, a racing board commissioner who is on the medication committee. As of Sept. 4, Harris said, "That will be over."