Rash Of Gabapentin Positives In Ohio

The positive test of a horse conditioned by leading trainer Ron Burke, posted in the Aug. 30 Fines & Suspensions list by the U.S. Trotting Association, is part of a rash of positives for the medication gabapentin in the state of Ohio.

As of Sept. 4, seven positives for the drug have reportedly been called by the Ohio State Racing Commission’s testing laboratory. Two other well-known trainers with gabapentin positives are Virgil Morgan Jr. (with Miso Fast on May 25) and Jim Arledge Jr. (Milfords Z Tam on July 2). Two more positives for gabapentin were listed in the Fines And Suspensions bulletin released on Friday, Sept. 6, and both of these horses were also racing in Ohio.

According to information gathered from several sources, the positives are not believed to be from intentional administration but random contamination. The positives were supposedly called for amounts of two nanograms or less, with a nanogram a unit of measurement which indicates a mass equal to one billionth.

Gabapentin is a widely used painkiller for humans. A May 2019 story in The New York Times cited that gabapentin is one of the top 10 most commonly prescribed drugs for pain in the U.S.

In 2014, the Journal of Veterinary Medicine published the results of a study to determine the effects of gabapentin in treating chronically lame horses and found no significant improvement in their condition. The Association of Racing Commissioners International has classified gabapentin as a Class C drug with a Class 2 penalty. Positives can be called for even miniscule amounts of gabapentin, making it a “zero tolerance” drug.

Burke appealed a $1,000 fine and 90-day suspension from the Ohio State Racing Commission (OSRC) after his horse McBoogitty tested positive for gabapentin after winning an $8,000 overnight on July 18 at Scioto Downs. It was the second gabapentin positive for a Burke horse in the last nine months. In November 2018 his horse Rock N Tony tested positive for the drug after winning a Northfield overnight.

In Ohio, trainers must have a hearing with judges regarding positive tests before they can request a split sample be sent off to a different testing laboratory for confirmation. Most states have split samples sent for testing and wait for the results before a trainer has a hearing with judges.

Well-known horse owner and Philadelphia attorney Howard Taylor is representing Burke and other trainers with gabapentin positives in Ohio. All of his clients have appealed and requested split samples.

(Harness Racing Weekend Preview)