The Maryland and Racing Commission fired chief state veterinarian Daveie Paice today after a closed and unannounced meeting at Pimlico Race Course.
The commission gave no reason for its action.
Paice had been a state veterinarian 22 years and was known as an opponent of controversial proposals to liberalize rules and procedures governing the administration of drugs and medication to racehorses.
As state veterinarian, it was Paice's responsibility to judge whether a horse was sound and qualified to race, to keep lists of all disqualified horses and to supervise the administration of any medication.
His lawyer, Herbert W. Awe, said the commission summoned Paice to a meeting "to discuss your employment status."
When Paice and Awe arrived at the meeting, Awe said, they were told that its purpose was to advise Paice that his "services are being terminated, effective immediately."
When they asked for a reason, Awe said, they were told only that the veterinarian services at the pleasure of the racing commission.
"That's 22 years down the drain," said Awe, adding that he is exploring possible legal remedies.He said leading Maryland trainers and jockeys and backstretch employes at Maryland's tracks have vouched for Paice's competence and integrity.
"I have no comment," said Robert W. Banning, the commission chairman, when asked to explain the firing.
Banning did, however, reiterate that commission employes serve at the pleasure of that panel and can be discharged anytime. Privately, he has been known to complain to other commissioners that Paice was not putting in proper hours at the track.
In recent years, Paice has been a strong opponent of liberal medication and drug policies regarding racehorses, a subject of intense controversy in the racing community.
In Maryland, horsemen have lobbied intensely for wider latitude in the use of drugs on horses, but a year ago the commission banned their use in all but a few cases. Opponents of medication have argued that their use permits horses to run when they should be resting, and thereby increases the risk of injury. Some opponents also believe that the use of Lasix, a diuretic, makes laboratory detection of new and exotic stimulants or depressants almost impossible.
Paice's dismissal was announced in a brief statement read by James Callahan, the commission secretary, who would offer no comment.
Racing Commissioner Frank Cuccia said, "There is no explanation necessary as to why we have terminated his (Paice's) employment. His appointment renewal would have come up on June 30. He will be paid until that date."
The firing leaves Dr. David Zipf as the acting chief veterinarian. There was no immediate comment on who would replace Paice.