Sadler Plans Response to CHRB Shakedown

Sadler Plans Response to CHRB Shakedown
Photo: Benoit
John Sadler
While he's withholding comment, leading trainer John Sadler says that he and his attorney have discussed a shakedown of his Del Mar stable by California Horse Racing Board investigators Aug. 18 and they will respond soon.

Kirk Breed, the CHRB's executive director, confirmed Aug. 20 that his investigators conducted a search of Sadler's barn area after the trainer turned up with an undisclosed number of positive results for anabolic steroids since official testing for the banned substances began Aug. 1 at the University of California, Davis' Ken Maddy Laboratory. The search of Sadler's stable was first reported by Daily Racing Form.

Sadler, contacted by phone two days after the raid, declined comment but said he would release a statement through his attorney, Donald Calabria, later in the day. A second published report said that Sadler was considering a lawsuit against the CHRB. Calabria did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Told of the possible lawsuit, Breed responded sarcastically. "Good. And I hope his veterinarian sues us, too," he said.

He added, "Listen, we have every right to shake his barn down and to say what we are looking for. Anything that goes on in that enclosure (Sadler's barn), we can investigate. And over the past two weeks, all I can say is that his name has been coming up with positives for anabolic steroids."

No complaint has been filed against Sadler as investigators await the results of a split sample that would confirm the Maddy Lab's initial finding. A second trainer, so far unidentified, has also requested a split sample be tested after being informed that he had violated the newly created anabolic steroid policy as well.

Sadler, who won the Hollywood Park spring/summer meet training title, is leading Del Mar conditioners with 22 winners from 78 starts, a 28% victory rate. He also has 60% finishing in the money at the current stand.

Breed said additional raids may be conducted on the Del Mar backstretch.

There was a grace period in July in which trainers were warned by letter if a horse in their care breached the new anabolic steroid rules. The CHRB alerted horsemen in advance that a violation beginning this month would be considered a Class 4 offense and would go on their record with public notification.

As of Sept. 4, a positive test becomes a Class 3 violation with a minimum 30-day suspension, a fine of up to $10,000 and forfeiture of purse, according to Dr. Rick Arthur, the CHRB's equine medical director.

Arthur reported that since testing for anabolic steroids began in Southern California July 1, there were 38 positives in 418 samples. Two trainers accounted for 28 of those violations.

"We have 97% of trainers that are running clean," Arthur said. He noted that in anonymous tests conducted in March and April, about 60% of horses came back positive for anabolic steroids under the new standards.

"We're certainly moving in the right direction," he said. "In the long run, this is beneficial to all concerned."

Arthur and Breed expressed frustration that apparently a small number of trainers are taking advantage of the lead time trainers were provided to come into compliance. It can take up to 45 days for anabolic steroids to clear a horse's system.

"Personally, I've never thought that anabolic steroids were much of a performance enhancer in racehorses. I might have been wrong," Arthur said. "Clearly, some trainers feel they are. And they are willing to embarrass themselves and embarrass the horse racing profession, which they are doing so badly here."

Breed agreed. "I think it was a mistake (to gradually impose the new rules)," he said. "We were trying to be fair to everybody."

The new rules will be in effect for the Breeders' Cup World Championships Oct. 24-25 at Santa Anita. Arthur said word has gone out to jurisdictions across the country. In addition, the CHRB will make pre-race screening for steroids available to out-of-state trainers who request it for the two-day racing festival.  

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