Mostly Warnings for Recent Nebraska Positives

State currently operating under 'zero tolerance.'

The Nebraska Racing Commission on May 5 decided to hand out mostly warnings for 14 recent medication positives involving nine trainers at Fonner Park, noting that while the state currently operates under “zero tolerance” it is in the process of adopting the schedule of controlled therapeutic substances of the National Uniform Medication Program.

That schedule of controlled therapeutic substances includes threshold levels for all the medications involved in the rash of Fonner positives from Feb. 18-April 23. Most of the positives involved corticosteroids.

Nebraska Racing Commission chairman Dennis Lee wanted to hear first-hand about the cases, most of which went directly to the commission for consideration at its May 5 meeting. Eleven of the cases were resolved with warning letters, two received minor ($250) fines, and one was not complete.

Trainer David Anderson received written warnings for three positives for the corticosteroid methylprednisolone. Also, the commission reduced the stewards’ sanctions for a dimethysulfoxide (anti-inflammatory) positive that called for a $250 fine, disqualification, and loss of purse, by restoring the purse money and placing.

The racing commission also reduced the stewards’ sanctions of a fine and loss of purse money and placing for trainer Marissa Black for an April 9 flunixin positive to just a $250 fine. The commission issued a warning to Black for a Feb. 27 positive for the anti-ulcer medication omeprazole.

The racing commission issued warnings for recent positives to James Christianson (methylprednisolone), Milton Gaede (the corticosteroid triamcinolone acetonide), Marvin Johnson (methylprednisolone), Kelli Martinez (two methylprednisolone positives), Merel Moore (methylprednisolone), and Stetson Rushton (dimethysulfoxide).

The commission also considered a recent medication positive of Joe Hawley (methylprednisolone) but a warning letter (or other decision) had not yet been posted as of May 11.

Because the state has not yet adopted the controlled therapeutic schedule, Nebraska racing operates at zero tolerance on corticosteroids and the other medications involved. At the May 5 meeting the racing commission opted not to enforce the zero tolerance policy.

Nebraska Racing Commission executive director Tom Sage said most of the positives were below the thresholds listed for the controlled therapeutic substances, although he did say some of the positives were over those thresholds.

Nebraska is in the process of adopting the controlled therapeutic substances list included in the National Uniform Medication Program. Sage said after prolonged opposition from horsemen, the racing commission approved in September the controlled therapeutic schedule that is one of four pillars of the national uniform medication program.

But before the rule became policy in the Cornhusker state, it had to be approved by the governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. The office of Nebraska attorney general Doug Peterson threw out the racing commission’s new rule, determining that it had not been passed properly.

Following that decision, the commission in April again passed the controlled therapeutic schedule in a manner it believes will be to the satisfaction of the attorney general’s office. That approval is now making its way through the state offices before it becomes rule.

In a matter unrelated to the medication positives at Fonner, the racing commission expects to hear at its regular July meeting the case of assistant starter Tanner Fielder. Racing commission investigators determined Fielder cut a fence to remove two horses he was caring for from a quarantined barn in April at Fonner.

The stewards suspended Fielder as long as they could by rule, through May 17, but turned the case over to the commission with the recommendation he be suspended for a full year, through April 2017. He also was fined $300 for fence repair.