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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pena Postscript?; Food For Thought

With Pena being handed a huge fine and suspension, many in racing are getting satisfaction in Lou Pena's banishment, while a few still question the fairness of his penalty, of which I am one of.  It should also be noted that the case now heads back to the court and the press release issued by the NYGC has several inaccuracies, obviously for the benefit of the general public (grandstanding?)

Let's review the facts.  First of all, none of Pena's horses tested positive for any substances .  Where he got nailed by the NYGC (then the NYSRWB) was by reviewing the logs of his New Jersey veterinarian which showed the medications were given after the mandated withdrawal time in New York.

The problem is in every other state, withdrawal times are advisory, if you follow their guidelines, you should be okay, but ignore the guidelines, you don't get penalized unless the horse comes back positive.  As a result, what Pena had done would not have gotten him in trouble, even in New Jersey which gave New York the veterinary records.  The only reason why Pena got in trouble was he violated withdrawal times which were codified in the NYSRWB regulations.

The fact New York codified their withdrawal times gave the regulators what they needed to nail Pena, so based on what has been made public, the regulators got their man and there lies my main objection to what happened to Pena.  It is not a question of whether or not he violated the rules (that appears to have been settled), it is the fact the regulators were gunning for Pena; something even the regulators haven't publicly denied doing.  Why hasn't any other standardbred trainers been given the 'Pena' treatment?

But as a postscript, assuming there is no court overturning the decision, here are some questions to be considered:  Did Pena's horses have an unfair advantage even though they tested 'clean'?  How did Pena's horses test clean if we are to believe the vet's records?  Are there other trainers out there doing exactly what Pena has been found to have been doing, just in states where withdrawal times are only advisory?  Is racing's reliance on testing so flawed it should be tossed and replaced with the passport principle, having a horse's blood chemistry put in a virtual passport and when a significant discrepancy is found, it be considered a positive even without concern of what medication was used; in effect banning the use of any medications for the benefit of improving a horse's performance?

Some food for thought.

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