The Indiana Horse Racing Commission has initiated an administrative action against trainer Tom Amoss that could result in a 60-day suspension and $5,000 fine.
According to an Amended Administrative Complaint filed Feb. 24, a positive test for the Class 4 drug methocarbamol in the Amoss-trained Hero Heart at Hoosier Park on Oct. 21, 2011, was the trainer's fourth violation within a 365-day period.
According to IHRC executive director Joe Gorajec's review of the Amoss case, Model Rules adopted by the Association of Racing Commissioners International provide guidance penalties for three violations within 365 days for Class 4 drug positives that carry Class C penalties, but do not provide guidance for a fourth violation within 365 days.
"Mr. Amoss' positive test under the jurisdiction of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission is 'off the charts'," the "review of information" that is part of the proceeding in Indiana stated.
Karen Murphy, an attorney retained by Amoss, has requested that the administrative penalty against the trainer be dismissed. In a letter to the IHRC's legal counsel based on a preliminary report of the positive, Murphy challenged the manner in which a split sample confirmation test was administered and tested.
At its March 7 meeting, the IHRC was expected to consider a request from Amoss that Murphy and Maggi Moss, an equine attorney and prominent horse owner, be approved to represent him in Indiana.
In requesting that the action be dismissed, Murphy said, "We do because the presence of methocarbamol was not confirmed in the urine split sample, and pursuant to 71 IAC 8.5-3-4 [b] [Rule 3. "Split sample"] "[n]o action shall be taken against the trainer or owner if the results of split sample testing are negative."
Murphy went on to state that in reviewing the materials provided in support of the Preliminary report, considerable attention was paid to the split sample analysis conducted at the Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory at the University of California-Davis.
"Importantly, UC Davis was singularly asked to test for the substance 'methocarbamol'… The protocol applied to the analysis by UC Davis, 'Identification of Methocarbamol From Horse Urine Samples,' utilized an SOP [CO29] which does not actually detect methocarbamol but assumes the presence of that substance, and further entirely converts the assumed substance into guaifenesin which may, inter alia, present itself as a metabolite of methocarbamol," Murphy wrote. "SOP CO29 should not have been used to analyze the sample in question.
"Without a prior determination of the presence or absence of the metabolite guaifenesin in the sample, the referee laboratory applied a method that does not and cannot confirm the presence of the substance methocarbamol in the split sample, wherein everything at the outset is chemically converted to guaifenesin. Thus, the referee laboratory employed a methodology and technology which could only test for, or confirm, the presence of the substance guaifenesin.
"While that substance can appear as a metabolite of methocarbamol, it is also a substance which is a parent drug in its own right separate and apart from the substance methocarbamol. That fact is even more significant here as the commission laboratory did not report any metabolite in the urine at issue. Consequently, the report of the primary laboratory is not confirmed by the referee laboratory whose report is in error as their analysis confirmed guaifenesin not methocarbamol," the letter continued.
"The protection afforded by a split sample analysis is to confirm or deny the presence of the exact substance by the primary laboratory. In this case, the finding of guaifenesin by UC Davis does not match or confirm the finding of methocarbamol by the commission's laboratory. Accordingly, puersuant to the commission's own rules of racing, the case must be dismissed for failure of a proper split confirmation rendering the split finding in this case in the 'negative'."
According to the record in the Indiana case, a horse trained by Amoss tested positive at Fair Grounds in Louisiana on Dec. 5, 2010, for the Class 4 substance Naproxen. The trainer had horses that tested positive in Kentucky twice for methocarbamol -- at Churchill Downs on May 28, 2011, and Keeneland on Oct. 7, 2011, according to the Indiana documents.
Another positive for methocarbamol, at Keeneland on Oct. 22, 2011, came one day after the positive at Hoosier Park for the same medication.
"In issuing this complaint, the commission staff has taken note of the positive test of a horse trained by Mr. Amoss for methocarbamol on Oct. 22, 2011 [5th offense]," the review of information in the Indiana case states. "The commission staff has not, however, taken this fifth offense into account in the recommended penalty in this complaint."
In January of this year, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission fined Amoss $2,500 after determining that the Oct. 22 positive was his third Class 4 violation within 365 days.
At the KHRC's Feb. 15 meeting, commissioner Alan Leavitt questioned whether the Oct. 22 violation should have been deemed only a second offense since Amoss was not given official notification of the Oct. 7 positive until Oct. 22.
Acting chief steward Rick Williams explained that the stewards took into consideration the mitigating circumstances in imposing a fine but no suspension for Amoss.
According to RCI's Model Rules, Class 4 medications are "comprised primarily of therapeutic medications routinely used in racehorses. These may influence performance, but generally have a more limited ability to do so."
Recommended RCI Model Rule penalties are "a minimum 60-day suspension absent mitigating circumstances. The presence of aggravating factors could be used to impose a maximum of a one-year suspension AND Minimum fine of $2,500 absent mitigating circumstances. The presence of aggravating factors could be used to impose a maximum of $5,000 or 5% of purse [greater of the two]."