Horses jump out the gate at Penn National racecourse.

Nebraska State Racing Commission upholds positive tests on horses

By NICHOLAS BERGIN /Lincoln Journal Star

GRAND ISLAND — An unusual torrent of race horses have tested positive for therapeutic drugs in Nebraska this spring.

The owners and trainers of more than a dozen thoroughbreds appealed the penalties for the tests to the four member Nebraska State Racing Commission at its monthly meeting held Thursday at Fonner Park.

They argued that they have followed the same medication practices for years, the amount of drugs found in the horses was miniscule, and they suspect the positive results could be due to the company doing the tests using more sensitive equipment.

Nebraska has a zero-tolerance policy for horses testing positive for certain drugs. The policy has become problematic over the years as tests become more sensitive.

The racing commission last month approved new standards that would allow for horses to test positive for certain thresholds of drugs but those new rules still have to be reviewed by the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, the Governor’s Policy Research Office, approved by Gov. Pete Ricketts and filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.

The drugs for which the horses tested positive are considered therapeutic to help with issues such as swelling and pain, and at the levels tested generally would not improve performance. Owners aren’t allowed to give horses the drug when racing because doing so could mask an injury. But they are allowed to treat horses during training, like taking an aspirin after a workout, as long as it is out of the system by race day.

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