Vet Stewart Could Resume Practicing Soon

Stay of five-year suspension would be automatic.

Dr. Rodney Stewart, the veterinarian who has been suspended for five years after cobra venom and other medications belonging to him were discovered in a trainer’s barn at Keeneland June 22, 2007, could resume practicing soon as a result of action taken Dec. 9.

During the Dec. 9 continuation of a Dec. 3 hearing into Stewart’s appeal of his suspension, an attorney representing the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission said the veterinarian and his attorneys had sufficiently complied with a request for computer information and medication records.

Stewart has been serving an indefinite suspension for failure to comply with an order from Kentucky chief state steward John Veitch in December 2007. Stewart was suspended as a result of his inability to produce the documents within a timely manner, according to Veitch.

Robert Watt, an attorney representing the commission in Stewart’s appeal of his five-year suspension, said based on actions by Stewart’s attorneys -- Mike Meuser and Karen Murphy -- over the past week, Veitch would likely issue an order lifting that suspension. Once that action takes place, Stewart could resume practicing veterinary medicine under a stay of the original five-year suspension.

“We believe a stay of the five-year suspension is in place as a matter of law,” said Watt, noting racing regulations provide that a stay become automatic if the stewards do not rule on it within 48 hours of the request. Watt said the stay would begin once Veitch signs an order lifting the suspension for failure to comply.

The KHRC issued a statement Dec. 9 saying that Stewart was not currently licensed would need to re-apply for a license to practice in the state, which issues licenses for one-year periods. Meuser said he knew of no plans by Stewart to seek a Kentucky license and that the stay would permit him to practice in other states where he still is licensed. At the time of the barn search which resulted in his suspension, Stewart and his family had moved from Lexington to Saratoga Springs, New York. In June 2007, Stewart was in the process of relocating his practice to Saratoga, where he had previously practiced.

No action was initially taken upon Stewart’s request for a stay in the five-year suspension because he was under suspension for the failure to comply with an order to produce records sought by the stewards.

Administrative law judge Robert Layton has set a deadline of Feb. 10, 2009 for the completion of Stewart's appeal, after which he will render his findings of fact and recommendations to the full racing commission on Stewart’s appeal.

The cobra venom was discovered in a red soft-sided cooler belonging to Stewart during a June 22, 2007, search of a barn occupied by trainer Patrick Biancone. Also during the search, KHRC investigators discovered a box in the back of Stewart’s truck containing carbidopa and levodopa, both considered Class A medication under Kentucky racing rules.

Trainer Patrick Biancone, who was suspended for six months and agreed not to seek reinstatement for another six months, recently completed his suspension. Stewart testified that Biancone was unaware of the contents of the cooler. Biancone was suspended under the absolute insurer rule that holds trainers responsible for horses in their care.

Stewart was suspended for four years for possession of three sealed vials of alpha-cobratoxin, or cobra venom, a substance used to kill pain. The substance is a Class A medication under the KHRA Uniform Drug and Medication Classification Schedule. Stewart was additionally suspended for one year for the possession of carbidopa and levodopa, both also Class A medications. Both drugs are used to treat Parkinson's disease in humans. The suspensions will run consecutively. He was also suspended for lesser offenses related to the case, with those suspensions to run concurrent to the longer suspensions.