The medication mess that’s been a thorn in the side of racing for what seems like forever is getting stranger by the minute.
On one hand, there is Doug O’Neill, trainer of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another, who is facing a suspension and fine for a 2-year-old drug positive in California. Trainers who cheat should be punished, but everyone seems to agree that O’Neill’s charges are based on an administrative rule that holds the trainer of record absolutely responsible for the condition of any horse that tests positive, rather than on evidence of actual wrongdoing.
On the other hand, Standardbred trainer Luis Pena recently was suspended after an investigation reportedly turned up 1,719 drug violations, in nearly 700 races, all during a 28-month period. There may be as much as $2.5 million in purse money involved. Those numbers are staggering, and they aren’t misprints. Trainers who cheat should be punished, but if reports are accurate, there was not a single positive drug test actually implicating Pena. Instead, the charges were based on circumstantial evidence generated during a multi-state investigation that reviewed veterinary records for the horses in Pena’s care.
Guilty Until Proved Innocent
O’Neill is being disciplined because a pre-race test on a horse he trained showed abnormally high levels of total carbon dioxide (TCO2). High TCO2 levels can indicate that a horse was given an illegal “milkshake,” a baking soda mixture that might help reduce fatigue during a race. High TCO2 levels also can result from other causes, h