CHRB Adopts Medication Penalties

California has toughened its penalty guidelines for medication violations.

From the California Horse Racing Board

The California Horse Racing Board has re-approved regulations establishing strict penalty guidelines for medication violations and related drug classifications that apply to all licensees, including trainers, horse owners, and veterinarians.

During its monthly business meeting March 27, the CHRB revised the language of regulations it had previously approved, this time in order to comply with recommendations of the state Office of Administrative Law, which reviews regulatory changes for all state agencies, and to address industry concerns.

The penalty guidelines call for stewards, hearing officers, or administrative law judges to issue a minimum one-year suspension to any trainer found responsible for a Category A violation, which includes drugs with the highest potential to affect performance and that have no generally accepted medical use in racehorses. Repeated offenses call for even longer suspensions or permanent license revocation, and fines up to $100,000 to the owner and trainer.

The penalty guidelines contain specific language allowing licensees to present evidence of “mitigating circumstances,” which if persuasive could convince hearing officers to either reduce or eliminate penalties altogether. The investigator or deputy attorney general representing the CHRB will have the opportunity to present “aggravating circumstances” in an effort to increase the penalty.

Owners of horses in the more serious cases (Class 1, 2, and 3 drugs) would in all instances lose any purse money. And under the new regulations, the horses involved could face sanctions, such as not being permitted to compete for several months and being subject to additional drug testing at the owner’s expense.

The regulations establish five drug classifications and four penalty categories. The more than 800 substances that can be detected by the board’s official testing laboratory – the Ken Maddy Laboratory at UC-Davis – all are listed among the five classes and assigned to a penalty category based on their therapeutic value, appropriate usage, potential for environmental and dietary contamination, and ability to influence the outcome of a race.

The CHRB will continue to file complaints against the trainers of horses that exceed the regulatory threshold of 37.0mml/l for total carbon dioxide (TCO2). The new penalty guidelines will provide additional deterrents for readings over 39.0mml/l.

Repeat violations at the higher levels could result in suspensions of six months to a year. And in addition to losing the purse in all TCO2 violations, an owner with repeated violations also could be fined up to $20,000.

In other business, commissioner Marie Moretti submitted a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger informing him of her decision to resign from the CHRB effective March 31, 2008. In that letter, Moretti thanked the governor for the opportunity to serve in his administration as a member of the board and said: “After more than eight years on the board, I believe it is time to let someone else have the opportunity to serve.”

Moretti was first appointed to the CHRB by Gov. Gray Davis Oct. 22, 1999, and most recently was reappointed by Schwarzenegger through Jan. 1, 2010. Her 8 1/2 years on the CHRB was the longest tenure of any racing commissioner in at least the last 30 years.