While a recent positive for Nikethamide is the first in more than a decade in U.S. racing, the dangerous nature of the Class I drug has the attention of regulators following a positive in July 2012.
While trainer Chris Grove plans to appeal the decision, stewards at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races suspended him for six months and fined him $5,000 Feb. 28 following a positive for the stimulant in July. Stewards assigned the same penalties to Grove's assistant, Misael Ceciliano.
According to research by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, a July 2012 positive for Nikethamide is the first in U.S. racing since 2001 at Suffolk Downs.
There have been times that Nikethamide has made headlines, though. Use of the stimulant was more prevalent in the U.S. in the 1980s. In 1953 three stakes winners at the Royal Randwick meeting in Australia, including Doncaster Handicap winner Tarien, were disqualified following positives for Nikethamide.
Nikethamide, or nicotinic acid diethylamide, was originally used as a stimulant to treat overdoses of sedatives, particularly barbiturates. The use of Nikethamide for this purpose has been replaced by other, more effective, and safer treatments.
After conferring with research consultant Dr. Rick Sams, the RMTC noted that Nikethamide is a very dangerous drug for use in a horse because it has a significant possibility of producing adverse effects, including death.
Because of the dangerous nature and the non-existent legitimate market for Nikethamide, the RMTC is not aware of any U.S. company that manufactures or distributes it for human or veterinary use. In Europe and South America, however, Nikethamide is commercially available in a lozenge for use as a respiratory stimulant.
In the latter half of the 20th century, a number of human athletes and racehorses tested positive for the substance. It has been banned from competition by the World Anti-Doping Association and is a Class 1 drug, the highest level under the ARCI model rules.