A New York trainer has been fined $500 by state regulators for verbally harassing a veterinarian and her assistant following a drug test on a horse last March at Belmont racetrack.
The state Racing and Wagering Board on Jan. 25 upheld a hearing officer’s penalty recommendation against Diane Balsamo after what an official report said was an inappropriate “display of temper’’ and “abusive language’’ and verbal harassment against Dr. Dianna Meyer and her assistant Donna McMullen.
Officials during the investigation into the March 13 incident said Balsamo approached the vet and her assistant after a blind drug test on a horse that was not scheduled to race that day. Balsamo insisted the test had been conducted on the wrong horse, according to a report. Balsamo told them that she had seen the name of the horse to be tested on a card and they pulled blood on the wrong horse. The vet and her assistant testified that they don’t have names of horses to be tested, only numbers and stall locations.
The two track officials testified in a hearing that Balsamo chased after them and “distracted’’ them from doing their next round of testing on a nearby horse. At one point, Meyer testified, Balsamo reached into a container with tubes and cards on the blood tests they had been performing.
“When she reached in to pull the card, I stopped the process at that point … She was reaching in and it was the tagged blood of all of the horses that we had done that morning and it was none of her business reaching in for the card,’’ Meyer testified.
Meyer then reported the incident to a racing steward.
In her testimony before a hearing officer, according to a report released by the board, Balsamo disputed the event’s characterization by the vet and her assistant. She said she “persisted’’ in wanting to see the card with information about the test on her horse, but that she never reached into the container. She also said she talked “very calmly’’ during the incident. “I did not curse at anybody. I did not make anybody scared,’’ she said.
The racing board voted unanimously to accept a hearing officer’s report and recommended $500 fine.
“It’s a disturbing incident. It could … have violated the chain of custody’’ of drug samples, said board member Charles Diamond. He added, “I hope that Ms. Balsamo has learned a very valuable lesson.’’