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Race horses test positive for Viagra ingredient

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Renowned quarter horse trainer John Stinebaugh has been suspended for 16 years, fined $40,000 and ordered to forfeit $8,000 in purses after four horses under his care tested positive for Sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra.

Quarter horse trainer John Stinebaugh has been suspended for 16 years, fined $40,000 and ordered to forfeit $8,000 in purses by the New Mexico Racing Commission. (Courtesy of Greg Thompson/StallioneSearch.com)

Quarter horse trainer John Stinebaugh has been suspended for 16 years, fined $40,000 and ordered to forfeit $8,000 in purses by the New Mexico Racing Commission. (Courtesy of Greg Thompson/StallioneSearch.com)

New Mexico Racing Commission executive director Vince Mares said the sanctions were issued Monday by the Sunland Park board of stewards after a Saturday hearing.

The discipline stems from four horses testing positive for the drug during July 5-6 trials for the $1 million Rainbow Futurity and $1.05 million Rainbow Derby at Ruidoso Downs.

The Association of Racing Commissioners International lists Sildenafil as a Class 3 drug that carries a Class A penalty – the most severe of three categories of recommended penalties.

Sildenafil citrate, the active ingredient in the human erectile dysfunction drug Viagra, is illegal in horse racing, because it increases cardiac output and can boost a race horse’s on-track performance.

Stinebaugh told American Quarter Horse News that the positive tests stemmed from an anti-bleeding compound drug administered in a paste to his horses by track veterinarians. The paste, manufactured by a Texas compounding pharmacy, mistakenly contained the banned drug, he said.

Regardless of how a drug gets into a horse, trainers are held responsible under state regulations.

The three horses that tested positive in the July 5 Rainbow Futurity trials were: My Dancing Angel, owned by Jimmy Kirk Crouch and Martin O. Ramos; Bikinni Bombshell, owned by Celina DeJesus Molina; and Dynasty Edition, owned by Allen Streelman of Dutch Masters III Stables. A fourth horse, PJ Chick in Black, owned by Susan Marie Taylor, Dennis Charles Bowen, John Louis and Mary Lynn Smith, tested positive the following day during trials for the Rainbow Derby.

Stinebaugh was given three-year suspensions and $10,000 fines for each of the first two positive tests, and five-year suspensions and $10,000 fines for each of the second two violations. The suspensions run consecutively. Besides forfeiting $8,000 in purses for those races, the $23,737 PJ Chick in Black earned in the Rainbow Derby finals was also forfeited, Mares said. PJ Chick in Black was the only one of the three horses that tested positive to advance in the trials.

The affected horses were placed on the state veterinarian’s list for 90 days, meaning they can’t race again until May 11. Before racing again, the horses must be cleared by a licensed veterinarian.

The Racing Commission adopted new, stricter regulations for medication violations in June 2012 that adhere to ARCI guidelines. Under those regulations, the horses’ owners were also cited. In addition to losing their portion of purse monies, the owners can’t race their horses during the 90-day suspension.

Stinebaugh, who has until Thursday to appeal the ruling, has ranked among the top 10 trainers by earnings nationally, according to the American Quarter Horse Association.

As of Thursday morning, neither Stinebaugh nor any owners had sought a stay from the Racing Commission, Mares said. They can also appeal the sanctions in state district court, and seek injunctions until their cases are adjudicated. In past instances, such stays or injunctions have allowed trainers to continue running their horses for months.

The drug tests were conducted by the Kenneth L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory at the University of California-Davis, the Racing Commission’s official testing lab. That’s the same lab that uncovered the use of dermorphin – an exotic painkiller said to be 40 times more powerful than morphine – on eight horses at Ruidoso Downs in May 2012. Three trainers were given severe sanctions in those cases.

Last April, Stinebaugh was handed a 15-day suspension, fined $500 and forfeited an $8,000 purse by the Racing Commission after a horse under his care tested positive for the drug clenbuterol at Sunland Park in February 2011.

Clenbuterol dilates bronchial tubes and aids respiration, but can also build muscle as a steroid. Citing rampant abuse, the Racing Commission banned clenbuterol in April 2012, but is currently considering allowing specific threshold levels of the drug on race day.

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