Stewards Hear Valenzuela Hair Test Evidence

Embattled jockey Patrick Valenzuela appeared before Del Mar stewards Thursday to seek reinstatement from his current suspension, but a decision will have to wait.

The administrative hearing, adjourned with further evidence to be presented, is scheduled to resume on Friday afternoon. The hearing is to determine if Valenzuela was in violation of his conditional license when he failed to provide hair for mandatory testing as directed by the terms of his conditional license.

According to California Horse Racing Board investigators, Valenzuela was clean-shaven and had an insufficient amount of hair available for testing when requested to do so at Hollywood Park July 2. The stewards summarily suspended him.

Valenzuela appeared at Thursday's hearing along with his attorney, Neil Papiano, and three other lawyers. Representing the CHRB was deputy attorney Jim Ahern, who began the hearing by calling one witness. At issue was whether or not Valenzuela was ever aware of how much hair and how long it should be in order for it to be properly tested.

For nearly two hours, forensic toxicologist Dan Berkabile testified under direct examination as to the specifics of hair follicle testing, as well as the difference between hair follicle and urinalysis tests. Berkabile is the founder and president of the American Toxicology Institute Inc. of Las Vegas and considered one of the leading experts on hair follicle testing.

Berkabile testified that an ideal sample of hair should be at least 1 ½ inches in length and contain at least 100 hairs. However, Berkabile said, hair as short as ¼ inch has been tested in such cases as pre-employment or child custody. Additionally, Berkabile said, hair follicle tests are routinely performed looking for illegal drugs and not prescription medications. The four types of illegal drugs are cocaine, amphetamine, opiates (heroin) and PCP.

"If hair grows a half-inch a month," Berkabile testified, "and you take 1 ½ inches of hair, we're effectively testing (for drug use) for the past three months. The test will not detect just one use (of drugs), but what will show up is regular use. If a person used (drugs) at least four times over the past three months, we'll have a positive. The primary purpose of testing is for regular (drug) use.

"With urine, if someone momentarily stops using (the subject) will pass the drug test. A hair test can't do that. It takes about seven days before (the drugs) show up in the hair."

Berkabile laid out the difference between testing the hair from the head versus the hair on other parts of the body.

"Hair on other parts of the body grows slower," Berkabile said. "Fifty percent of pubic hair lies dormant wherereas 10 percent of the head hair lies dormant. In that case, hair from the pubic area could hurt or help. It could make the drug result stretch longer or have no (positive drug result) because (the hair) has been allowed to collect longer. There are other variables when it's not head hair."

Berkabile testified that Valenzuela, who showed up to the hearing close shaven, could not currently provide sufficient hair for testing.