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Stays For Three Maine Trainers

Published: June 14, 2016 9:09 am ET

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A stay has been ordered for three trainers in Maine after the state's harness racing commission suspended them for the use of cobalt.

Cumberland County (ME) Superior Court Justice Lance Walker ordered a stay of the decision by the Maine Harness Racing Commission on April 26, 2016, that issued suspensions for Steven Vafiades, Randy Bickmore and Drew Campbell for violating their policy on the use of cobalt. The stay was signed by the judge on June 8, 2016.

The Court cited that three requisite elements to issue the stay existed in this case. First, since the penalties, including license suspensions from 270 to 450 days, are substantial, the Court was satisfied that there would be “irreparable injury to the petitioner(s).”

Further, the Court found that “A stay of the discipline imposed on the Petitioners while the underlying appeal is resolved does not present 'substantial harm either to the parties or to the general public'.”

Finally, the Petitioners offered that “the Commission concluded that cobalt affected the performances of horses without any competent record evidence to do so.” The Court determined that the Commission did not have competent and substantial evidence to conclude as it did. This satisfied the requirement that “a strong likelihood of success on the merits” upon appeal exists.

Bill Childs, a lawyer for two of the trainers, noted that Judge Walker also cited issues with the Commission's rules and procedures for notice.

“When these cases were prosecuted, there was no rule in effect,” Childs told Maine Public Broadcasting. “They took the later adopted rule and tried to retroactively apply it.”

In early June, a total of seven trainers were fined and suspended for cobalt use in a series of test results that dated back to April 2015.

(with files from the USTA)

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