Harnessracing.com reports that trainer Lou Pena has been suspended indefinitely by the NYSRWB as a result of a joint NJRC/NYSRWB investigation reviewing the veterinary records of horses trained by Mr. Pena. As a result, the NYSRWB has determined there were 1,719 alleged violations of medication rules in the state of New York which each offense has potential suspensions and a maximum fine of $25,000 per violation. Not that he would be fined the maximum amount, but for those who want to know what the potential fine could be, it is $42,975,000. Oh, and there is the matter of $2.5 million in purse money which will need to be returned, if the charges are in fact proven as being true, so the purses may be redistributed.
If you are a glutton for punishment, feel free to read the 45 page Notice of Suspension and Hearing courtesy of the NYSRWB
Clearly, this is likely the biggest alleged medication violation which I recall and possibly of all-time. Expect this news to get out in the non-racing media as well which certainly is going to harm the image of all horse racing, but certainly give standardbred racing a black eye (to say the least). For those who thought harness racing was getting of easy in the recent press reporting, our time has come and what can the industry say? Sure there will be some spin which will take place, but all the spin in the world is not going to mitigate all the damage this alleged scandal will cause.
For the record, it should be noted that Lou Pena has a right to contest the charges and the NYSRWB may bring more evidence into the hearing other than disclosed in the press release. As of now, these charges should be considered allegations. As one person said to me, "No positive tests? Only vet records? Hmmm. Let's not rush
to judgment folks."
The NYSRWB release indicated some rule changes will be forthcoming, one of them dealing with access to veterinary records. You bet this will be one item acted upon sooner than later. I know horsemen will not want these records made readily available, but if the scandal is as big as it has the potential to be, they will be hard pressed to defend the lack of access. It will be interesting to see what the horsemen's response will be.
I realize you can't test for everything, but if these allegations are true, it shows you how bad racing's testing for medications is. For two years, no positives for these drugs came up? It is time for racing to admit their testing for illegal medications or drugs given past withdrawal time is a big joke. Unless the industry has a centralized laboratory for testing, it will not be cost effective to test adequately. Perhaps another example while federal intervention may be required.