The Indiana Horse Racing Commission has initiated an administrative action against trainer Tom Amoss that could result in a 60-day suspension and $5,000 fine.
According to an amended administrative complaint filed Feb. 24, a positive test for the Class 4 drug methocarbamol in the Amoss-trained Hero Heart at Hoosier Park on Oct. 21, 2011, was the trainer’s fourth violation within a 365-day period.
According to IHRC executive director Joe Gorajec’s review of the Amoss case, model rules adopted by the Association of Racing Commissioners International provide guidance penalties for three violations within 365 days for Class 4 drug positives that carry Class C penalties, but do not provide guidance for a fourth violation within 365 days.
“Mr. Amoss’ positive test under the jurisdiction of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission is ‘off the charts’,” stated the “review of information” that is part of the proceeding in Indiana.
Karen Murphy, an attorney retained by Amoss, has requested that the administrative penalty against the trainer be dismissed. In a letter to the IHRC’s legal counsel based on a preliminary report of the positive, Murphy said the split-sample testing conducted at Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory at the University of California-Davis did not confirm the initial test results.
"Tom Amoss has never had a 'positive' test for any medication in the State of Indiana," Murphy said in a statement. "The substance at issue is an allowable therapeutic medication with withdrawal times recommended by the racing commission. The withdrawal of the medication in this instance exceeded that time limit by two full days."
Murphy also said that for the commission to be including a penalty phase and making Amoss’ prior history part of the case history while the core issue of whether the sample was handled correctly is inappropriate.
"Indiana has ignored its own rules of racing by prejudicing Mr. Amoss with inflammatory pleadings which do not state the plain and simple facts with the intent of finding the truth," Murphy said.
At its March 7 meeting, the IHRC was expected to consider a request from Amoss that Murphy and Maggi Moss, an equine attorney and prominent horse owner, be approved to represent him in Indiana. Murphy said that action is unprecedented.
"Indiana also (and wrongfully) seeks to impose conditions and limitations on Mr. Amoss’ counsel in their representation of him in these proceedings," Murphy said.
In requesting that the action be dismissed, Murphy said in her letter to the commission: “We do so because the presence of methocarbamol was not confirmed in the urine split sample, and pursuant to 71 IAC 8.5-3-4 (b) (Rule 3. Split sample) “no action shall be taken against the trainer or owner if the results of split sample testing are negative.”
Murphy said that in reviewing the materials provided in support of the preliminary report, considerable attention was paid to the split-sample analysis conducted at the UC-Davis lab.
“Importantly, UC-Davis was singularly asked to test for the substance ‘methocarbamol.' The protocol applied to the analysis by UC-Davis, ‘Identification of Methocarbamol From Horse Urine Samples,’ utilized an SOP (CO29) which does not actually detect methocarbamol but assumes the presence of that substance, and further entirely converts the assumed substance into guaifenesin which may, inter alia, present itself as a metabolite of methocarbamol,” Murphy wrote. “SOP CO29 should not have been used to analyze the sample in question.
“Without a prior determination of the presence or absence of the metabolite guaifenesin in the sample, the referee laboratory applied a method that does not and cannot confirm the presence of the substance methocarbamol in the split sample, wherein everything at the outset is chemically converted to guaifenesin. Thus, the referee laboratory employed a methodology and technology which could only test for, or confirm, the presence of the substance guaifenesin.
“While that substance can appear as a metabolite of methocarbamol, it is also a substance which is a parent drug in its own right separate and apart from the substance methocarbamol. That fact is even more significant here as the commission laboratory did not report any metabolite in the urine at issue. Consequently, the report of the primary laboratory is not confirmed by the referee laboratory whose report is in error as their analysis confirmed guaifenesin not methocarbamol,” the letter states.
“The protection afforded by a split sample analysis is to confirm or deny the presence of the exact substance by the primary laboratory. In this case, the finding of guaifenesin by UC-Davis does not match or confirm the finding of methocarbamol by the commission’s laboratory. Accordingly, pursuant to the commission’s own rules of racing, the case must be dismissed for failure of a proper split confirmation rendering the split finding in this case in the ‘negative.’ ”
Dr. Scott Stanley of UC-Davis wrote a letter stating the sample was subjected to analysis using gas chromatography mass spectrometry procedures, the standard method used in most equine drug-testing laboratories. “Methocarbamol is completely converted to and detected as guaifenesin as described in the SOP. In the analysis ... our laboratory completed GC-MS and confirmed the presence of methocarbamol as converted to guaifenesin.
“Additional testing, by LC-MS/MS, would readily determine if the sample also contains guaifenesin, which was not reporting at the time of the split sample request,” Stanley wrote, noting that additional testing would be completed within three to five days after a written request is received.
To allow the commission to have a second split-sample test is not proper procedure, Murphy said.
"The finding of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission’s laboratory of minute levels of the medication in the urine was not confirmed by the split test, and any attempt at a 'do over' is contrary to law and all notions of fundamental fairness," Murphy said.
According to the record in the Indiana case, a horse trained by Amoss tested positive at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in Louisiana on Dec. 5, 2010, for the Class 4 substance naproxen. The trainer had horses that tested positive in Kentucky twice for methocarbamol—at Churchill Downs May 28, 2011, and Keeneland Oct. 7, 2011, according to the Indiana documents.
Another positive for methocarbamol, at Keeneland Oct. 22, 2011, came one day after the positive at Hoosier Park for the same medication.
“In issuing this complaint, the commission staff has taken note of the positive test of a horse trained by Mr. Amoss for methocarbamol on Oct. 22, 2011 (5th offense),” the review of information in the Indiana case states. “The commission staff has not, however, taken this fifth offense into account in the recommended penalty in this complaint.”
In January of this year, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission fined Amoss $2,500 after determining that the Oct. 22 positive was his third Class 4 violation within 365 days.
At the KHRC’s Feb. 15 meeting, commissioner Alan Leavitt questioned whether the Oct. 22 violation should have been deemed only a second offense because Amoss was not given official notification of the Oct. 7 positive until Oct. 22. Acting chief steward Rick Williams explained that the stewards took into consideration the mitigating circumstances in imposing a fine but no suspension for Amoss.
"Unusual circumstances resulted in a return of three purported ‘positives’ for the same medication within days of each other in three different jurisdictions, notwithstanding strict adherence to all withdrawal time frames," Murphy said of the other positives. "Mr. Amoss was not notified of the other tests and, as a result, the state of Kentucky mitigated the penalty with a fine because he could not possibly have taken any steps to remediate the situation without having had actual notice. Those steps have been fully implemented now."
According to RCI’s model rules, Class 4 medications are “comprised primarily of therapeutic medications routinely used in racehorses. These may influence performance, but generally have a more limited ability to do so.”
Recommended RCI penalties are “a minimum 60-day suspension absent mitigating circumstances. The presence of aggravating factors could be used to impose a maximum of a one-year suspension and minimum fine of $2,500 absent mitigating circumstances. The presence of aggravating factors could be used to impose a maximum of $5,000 or 5% of purse (greater of the two).”