The Maryland Harness Board has thrown out, because of a technicality, the suspensions of five trainers whose horses' postrace tests at Freestate Raceway this summer showed the use of Lasix or other diuretics.
John Lare, Ann Bell, George Bartlett, Gerald Moore and Dwayne Stoliker all were given maximum 30-day suspensions. Each appealed on the grounds that the Maryland Racing Commission did not, as U.S. Trotting Association rules require, take a split sample of the horses' urine in the detention barn.
"We agreed with that position," said Jack Cooper, an assistant state attorney general who is counsel to the harness board. "We had to come to the conclusion to bite the bullet with the situation on the appeal. We won't take on a hearing if the position of the board would conflict with the law or a regulation of the commission we're operating under."
A split sample enables a horseman to have the sample tested independently if the test by the commission's lab returns positive. It has been standard procedure for years in Maryland for the sample to be split at the testing lab, according to Ed Cole, assistant executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission. Because harness board rules say the state will follow USTA rules, unless others are specifically provided, the state was obligated to get the split sample in the detention barn.
"No one realized that our procedure didn't jibe with the USTA rules," Cooper said. "Needless to say, the procedure has been changed."
Cole said the harness board may consider adding a rule so that the commission could follow the testing procedure it has over the years. A spokesman for the USTA said its rule was written before the advent of parimutuel harness racing in many states, when the USTA and not individual states governed the sport. He said most states have their own rule on split samples.