Friday, July 17, 2009

Asmussen Suspended. This Texas Racing Fan [and Scientist] Has Some Thoughts

Recently, I wrote of honors bestowed to Lone Star Park's leading trainer, Steve Asmussen. However, last week was not all smiles and frivolity for him. There was, of course, a hearing before the stewards regarding last year's lidocaine positive - or more precise, a metabolite of lidocaine, hydroxylidocaine - in one of his maiden winners, Timber Trick.

His hearing was besieged with postponements and rescheduling, and it took more than a year before Steve Asmussen received his opportunity to present his defense before the racing stewards; eight hours of testimony that included trainer Bill Mott, and Steve Barker, the chief chemist for the testing laboratory at LSU. And after all the testimony and presentations, the stewards gave Asmussen an additional 48 hours to present more facts to the case before they made their ruling.

Any facts other than the quantity of hydroxylidocaine in the urine sample or a confirmation of lidocaine in the horse's blood.

So, what's one to do if you can't present the facts or the truth?

Of course, the stewards handed down their ruling yesterday: six month suspension and a $1,500 fine.

Karen Murphy, co-counsel with Maggi Moss, had expressed that the racing stewards have "broad latitude to look at the circumstances", intimating they could have allowed the defense's requests to quantitate the metabolite or test the horse's blood.

So why didn't they? Even if Texas is Zero-Tolerance Xanadu, wouldn't it be in the best interest of racing to know the facts? The truth?

I cannot understand why the Texas Racing Commission was so autocratic and self-serving in these proceedings. They were presented with an opportunity to make technological advancements in drug testing; specimen collection errors and/or contaminants versus actual cheaters. And they have left behind the distinct impression that the stewards were going to do what the Commission told them to do. How's that for "fairness" and "integrity" of the sport.

So the Commission nabbed their big fish. Leading trainer and a local guy who continually supports Texas racing yearly, even with dwindling purses. A fellow who has had tremendous success and has an arsenal of horses in his barn. An arsenal of horses that could very well end up racing elsewhere - anywhere but Texas.


Teresa said...

I thought that your comment on the Paulick Report was great, Sue. The level of hysteria and ignorance that people bring to this issue astonishes me--thank goodness you're out there reminding people of the, um, facts.

Anonymous said...

I am a small time horse owner and I can tell you we all use medications and drugs in our horses. Right or wrong it is part of the business. Let's not forget as an owner we are in it to make money and I try to keep up with what my competitors are doing.

malcer said...

@Anon: Please stop being a horse owner.

In case you didn't understand, this post doesn't argue that doping should be ignored, but that doping should be proven before it is punished.

That's a basic principle of sportsmanship (and the law, btw), as is disgust for people who think that "right or wrong it is part of the business" is a valid defense for criminal conduct.

Anonymous said...

The rules are the rules. The legislation passed in Texas delegates this authority to the TRC. Break the rules and you pay the consequences. If you don't like the rules, go someplace else. You guys all bitch about drugs and cheating, yet when they pinch somebody who is sainted as Mr A, you all bitch. This should be a message to everyone.