06/08/2016 11:00AM

Servis disputes three clenbuterol positives, suggests tampering

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Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer John Servis has speculated tampering may have led to three positive tests for clenbuterol at Parx Racing.

John Servis, the Philadelphia-based trainer who saddled this year’s winner of the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, has been told that three of his horses who ran at Parx Racing near Philadelphia have tested positive for the regulated medication clenbuterol, the trainer confirmed Wednesday.

Servis, who saddled Cathryn Sophia to win the Kentucky Oaks on May 6, said he was notified about the positives by the Pennsylvania Racing Commission on three occasions since the beginning of May. Servis acknowledged that he regularly administers clenbuterol in paste form to horses in his barn but said he does not administer the drug within 14 days of a race, the recommended withdrawal time for the medication.

“I’m not comfortable with the situation,” Servis said. “Sooner or later, we have to get to the bottom of this.”

Servis first spoke about the positives in an article published in the Philadelphia Daily News. The Pennsylvania Racing Commission has yet to issue a complaint in the matter.

Clenbuterol is a bronchodilator that can build muscle mass if used regularly. Regulators began cracking down on the use of the drug five years ago amid concern that trainers were using the medication for its anabolic steroid-like side effects rather than as a legitimate medication to treat bronchial problems.

The horses who tested positive include Miss Inclusive, the winner of the $100,000 Parx Oaks on May 7, Servis said. The other horses were Hearty Jones, the winner of a Parx race on April 4, and Someday Jones, who finished second in a race at Parx on April 16.

Hearty Jones tested positive for a trace amount of the medication, whereas the other two tested positive for “very large amounts” of the drug in their post-race samples, Servis said. The findings have led Servis to speculate that someone may have tampered with his horses, Servis said.

Servis acknowledged that nearly every horse in his barn was administered the medication over seven weeks in the winter, when Parx was closed for training due to renovations and maintenance and his horses were largely limited to walking in the shedrow, where dust can accumulate. He also said that Hearty Jones was administered the drug to increase her appetite, a side effect of drugs such as clenbuterol with steroid-like properties.

“I didn’t just start using this,” Servis said, maintaining that he is well aware of when to stop using the drug to avoid a positive. “I’ve been using it for more than 10 years.”

Servis said he employs a night watchman and has security cameras at his barn. However, he could not find any evidence of tampering on the security tapes, he said.

Earlier this year, another trainer at Parx, Ramon Preciado, was sanctioned for six clenbuterol positives in March and April and was ejected from Parx and suspended for 270 days by the commission. Preciado, who is appealing the ejection and the commission penalty, has claimed through an attorney that the horses were tampered with and that he stopped using the drug last year after getting four positives for the medication in 2015.train