Cocaine Cases Against Three Trainers Dropped

A three-year-old drug-positive case against trainers David Donk, Todd Pletcher, and Mark Hennig has been dropped by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. Horses conditioned by the trio were found to have trace amounts of cocaine in their systems after races at Gulfstream Park and Hialeah Park in 1999.

"This result was the right thing to do," said attorney John Behrendt, who represented all three trainers. "It was an obvious contamination. From our discovery, Florida will call a positive on cocaine no matter how small the level. The Federal Aviation Administration will let a commercial airline pilot fly with up to 150 nanograms. It's just there in society and people can pick it up handling money, in restaurants, wherever. But it doesn't have any effect and doesn't indicate any intentional activity."

Debra Miller, the head of the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering at the time the positives were called, ordered a 90-day suspension of the three trainers, none of whom had a positive in excess of 50 nanograms per milliliter.

"When you have the absolute-trainer rule where the trainer gets nicked for anything, the state has to deal with its side of the equation as well," Behrendt said. "Contamination can occur in the spit barn, which is run by the state. The workers in there don't always wear gloves as they're supposed to do, and they're not drug-tested. When you get a contamination, it's just as likely to come from a state employee as from a trainer's employee."

Florida remains a zero-tolerance state. However, with a national movement afoot to standardize drug rules, trace amounts of banned drugs and medications that are clearly not performance-enhancing might in the future not lead to sanctions against trainers.