04/08/2015 1:12PM

Turf Paradise: Two recent euthanasia injections contaminated


Two horses euthanized at Turf Paradise in Phoenix during the past six months tested positive for a drug used to treat attention-deficit disorder in humans that has been traced to contamination of the injections used to put the horses down, according to a racing official with knowledge of an ongoing investigation into the results.

The drug found in the two horses was the stimulant methylphenidate, which is sold under the brand name Ritalin and used to treat hyperactivity in humans, especially children. The two postmortem tests also detected another drug, flunixin, a painkiller that is sold under the brand name Banamine, according to the official.

Late on Tuesday, the Arizona Department of Racing issued a statement saying it was investigating “abnormal findings” in the post-race results of two of the seven horses who were euthanized during the meet. The statement did not identify the substances that were found.

“It is believed that the cause of the prohibited substances may be linked to the euthanasia process,” the department said in a release. “At this time in the investigation, the horses appear to have no connection other than all being euthanized ontrack. There is no wrongdoing suspected by those involved with the horses, nor does it appear that the substances were being given to the horses prior to racing.”

The official said the horses who tested positive for the traces of the two drugs did not show any outward signs of distress when they were euthanized. A euthanasia injection is typically a mix of an anesthetic and a large dose of a barbiturate, formulated to quickly numb and kill the animal.

“The first they knew about it was when it showed up in the [postmortem] tests,” the official said. In Arizona, all horses who are euthanized ontrack are tested.

Officials with the Arizona Department of Racing did not immediately return calls Wednesday.

The statement said the horses who tested positive were euthanized Nov. 25, 2014, and Feb. 23, 2015. The other five horses who were euthanized did not test positive for the two drugs, according to the statement. On Nov. 25, Pull On Time broke down in the last race, while on Feb. 23, Aerial Dancer broke down in the fourth race, according to charts.

The official said the initial findings of the investigation had indicated that state veterinarians had received a batch of euthanasia injections that were contaminated with the two drugs.

“The state is continuing to investigate these abnormal findings and is working closely with all those involved,” said the statement.