An Australian racehorse trainer has come under scrutiny after his horse, Party Till Dawn, tested positive for methamphetamine, the Australian Broadcasting Company reports.
Trainer Ben Currie hasn’t been accused of intentionally drugging his horse, but the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission will question him next week as to why Party Till Dawn tested positive for methamphetamine following a June race at which the 5-year-old mare placed second.
Currie told ABC he thinks he knows how Party Till Dawn’s test sample became tainted but refused to speak about the specifics. He expects his name to be cleared, however.
This is the second time in just more than a year that a racehorse in Queensland has tested positive for methamphetamine. In October 2015, trainer Cassandra Marsh was fined $5,000 after her horse Island Tang was found to have a trace amount of the substance in his system. She blamed the failed tests on one of Island Tang’s handlers, a regular user of methamphetamine, who she said inadvertently transferred trace elements of the drug to the horse.
Renowned Minnesota trainer Mac Robertson cited a similar reason in July 2015 when his horse Purest Form tested positive for the drug. Like Marsh, he claimed to have no idea how the horse ended up with 74 picograms — a trace amount — of the substance in his system, but was told it could’ve been transferred by a handler who used the drug.
“I waited until the day before payday, when I knew everyone would be there, and then said, ‘Come on, we’re going for drug testing — including my wife and myself,’ ” Robertson told the Star Tribune at the time.
In that case, two people who may have come into contact with Purest Form tested positive for the substance and Robertson fired them, despite not knowing precisely whether that’s why his horse’s sample became tainted.
“It could be anybody, anything,” he said. “Some guy takes a leak in the stable and the horse eats the hay. Somebody rubs their hand across the horse’s nostrils or mouth. . . . There’s also the possibility, I suppose, that somebody on the backside that’s into meth thought he could give a little to this horse and make some money betting on it; heck, I have no idea.”
Purest Form won the June 2015 race at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn., with the methamphetamine in his system to claim the $7,500 prize, which was later revoked. Robertson was also given a 90-day suspension for the infraction and fined $2,000.
According to Dr. Dionne Benson, executive director of the Racing Medication & Testing Consortium, a national organization that promotes uniform drug policies and standards, methamphetamine is considered an RCI Class 1 prohibited substance because it could act like a stimulant and increase a horse’s awareness and running ability.
It remains unclear, however, how much methamphetamine a horse might need in its system to benefit from the drug’s side effects, which is why it’s subject to what’s called the “absolute insurer rule.” This puts the burden of proof regarding how a banned substance got into a horse entirely on the horse’s trainer.
“If you don’t have that, then every person is going to come in and say, ‘I didn’t put it in the horse,’ and then the state has to prove that they did,” Benson said. “At the end of the day when you look at it from the perspective of the horse that placed second to a horse that had a methamphetamine positive, [abolishing the absolute insurer rule] would probably not be fair to them. … It’s not fair to them to take second place to a horse that may or may not have been at an advantage physically.”