06/15/2012 2:40PM

Warning, change in test led to spate of Dermorphin positives

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Industrial Labs, a drug-testing company in Denver, Colo., was told by state racing regulators six months ago to be on the lookout for a potent opiate painkiller, dermorphin, according to the lab’s director, an alert that has led to a spate of post-race positives for the drug in at least two states.

The warning was passed on as a rumor that the drug was being abused at racetracks, according to Petra Hartmann, the lab director, who would not name the state in which the alert originated. While no positive results were recorded in the first three months of testing, the lab began detecting the drug 2 1/2 months ago, immediately after the test was tweaked, Hartmann said.

“We had about four suspected tests” in the first three months, Hartmann said. “But after we improved the test, and as we kept looking for it, they started popping up.”

On Thursday, Steven Barker, the director of the drug-testing laboratory at Louisiana State University, confirmed that the lab had called 10 positives for dermoprhin after receiving the new method from Industrial Labs. On Friday, Barker said that he had detected the drug in another post-race test, bringing the total from Louisiana racehorses to 11.

Dermorphin is a naturally occurring opioid that is produced as a skin secretion in certain species of South American frogs, though it can also be synthesized and manufactured. It is highly potent, and the minimum penalty for a post-race positive of the drug is a one-year suspension, loss of purse, and a $10,000 fine.

Barker had said that Industrial taught him the new method so his lab could confirm the detection of the drug in split samples originating from Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission would not confirm that it has received reports of positives of the drugs.

According to an official with knowledge of the positives, Oklahoma has detected at least 15 post-race positives of dermorphin. Ten of those positives came from one trainer, the official said.

Hartmann would not confirm that her lab detected positives from any one state. She said that Industrial has applied the new test to post-race samples originating from three states. Industrial does drug-testing on behalf of racing commissions in Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona, Minnesota, and North Dakota.

Hartmann also said that her lab has shared the new method with a number of other testing laboratories across the U.S., introducing the possibility that more positives for the drug will be called in the next several weeks.

Joel Sandlin More than 1 year ago
When and where will the names of these tainers that used this drug be published?
Joel Sandlin More than 1 year ago
Edit: correction of typo: trainers
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
amazing everytime they look under the hood theres a cheating trainer.
Thomas s More than 1 year ago
If a barn was consistently successful; without drugs, I suppose things might change as others might follow them. If an owner has a problem with his trainer using drugs on HIS horses he should fire the guy and demand a trainer who is clean (if one exists). If this happened, maybe things would change. Everyone tells me Lasix is a masking agent....guess it doesn't work on the stuff in this article huh? Been running thoroughbred polo and event horses for years without dope...the most extraordinary animal athletes there are. Can't tell me they need dope. Can't tell me they need weeks of rest...because they don't.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Quarter horses don't count. The hicks don't know any better.
Zakk W. More than 1 year ago
I guess they only way to solve this problem is to legalize the use of illegal substances. Or close down all the racing facilities. Perhaps the race track themselves can start selling the drugs to the trainers. This business has gotten so corrupt, there are always new drugs or so called performance enhancements that will pass their tests. The problem in general are the low-life sc*mbag trainers that will do just about anything to get an edge, these people need to be banned from the sport for life. I stopped betting years ago & I hope others do the same.
mrm More than 1 year ago
Guess what? The whole professional sports industry is doing the same thing. Let's not just single out horse racing.
Zakk W. More than 1 year ago
I guess they only way to solve this problem is to legalize the use of illegal substances. Or close down all the racing facilities. Perhaps the race track themselves can start selling the drugs to the trainers. This business has gotten so corrupt, there are always new drugs or so called performance enhancements that will pass their tests. The problem in general are the scumbag trainers that will do just about anything to get an edge, these people need to be banned from the sport for life. I stopped betting years ago & I hope others do the same.
Morris More than 1 year ago
HOW COME. in new mexico, as well as louisana, in spite of the fact that a few tests have come back bad, the race tracks are full of horses. there are stall apps. piled up ,with a waiting list . the purses are some of the most desired. top trainers & jockeys flock there. the races are full. few short fields. the grandstands are full, even on week days& most important the public gambles more , on avgerage, than other states. if racing is so evil & so corrupted. why do they continue to be so successiful. as they have been for years. and i would like to add. this is after the industry has been policed for 40 years. go figure.
mrm More than 1 year ago
Nothing better to do?
Joseph Gonzales More than 1 year ago
Check out the latest information on the AQHA website about the quarter horse owners who were arrested last week, regarding the affidavit filed in federal court supporting a search warrant, stated that two informants said a top leader bragged that he had paid money for horses to be held at the race’s start. Also the affidavit asserts that an informant stated that the horse was given an illegal performance-enhancing substance 15 days before the All American Futurity. These issues are not a big secret to racing insiders. If they wanted to catch the cheaters they could, but they first have to want to.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Despite the few findings of drugged horses the results of thourougbred races are seldom surprising. They in fact, most of the time, make sense from a handicapping standpoint. When drug problems are found in the lab they should be published along with the number of clean tests. There should always be full perspective on these matters. The number of entries in races, the number of tests done, the number of clean tests and finally the number of positive(illegal) tests. And medicine(lasix/bute) should not be thrown out just becuase of the bad drugs this article is about.
Kris Fullerton More than 1 year ago
Most of the "frog juice" positives, if not all, are QHs.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
amory_gillian More than 1 year ago
BRAVO! boycott them to teach'em a lesson.