BATON ROUGE, LA — Do you remember the Louisiana trainers that were busted for giving racehorses the illegal drug Dermorphin? Well, they’ve been at it again. Only this time the racetrack vet is taking the fall and has reportedly been charged along with a healthcare company.
A Louisiana veterinarian has been charged with engaging in a scheme to influence the outcome of horse races by illegally treating the animals with a synthetic version of a drug known as “frog juice.”
The federal indictment accuses the veterinarian, Kyle James Hebert, of providing trainers with syringes of dermorphin to inject the painkiller in at least four horses that competed at Louisiana racetracks. The indictment returned Thursday by a grand jury in the Western District of Louisiana says Hebert told trainers that the mislabeled drug would make the horses “focus” and run faster.
Dermorphin, an opioid roughly 30 times more potent than morphine, is naturally secreted by tree frogs native to South America. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any drug containing dermorphin for use in humans or animals.
Hebert’s company, Southern Equine Sports Medicine, operated veterinary clinics in Lake Charles and Sunset. The indictment charges him and an Omaha, Nebraska-based company, Kohll’s Pharmacy & Healthcare Inc., with conspiracy.
Hebert is licensed to practice veterinary medicine at racetracks by the Louisiana State Racing Commission. In 2012, the commission sanctioned nine trainers whose horses tested positive for dermorphin. Read more »
When the story on doping racehorses with “frog juice” originally broke in June 2012, more than 40 horses from four states had tentatively tested positive for the Dermorphin. More cases appeared as testing was tweaked to enhance detection.
The horse racing industry refused to take any sort of real action against it leaving it up to individual racecourse jurisdictions to deal with it.
Then the Dermorphin problem appears to have gone underground — until now.
Drugging racehorses is as old as horse racing itself when it comes to American trainers. Over the years, laboratories have detected everything from cocaine to viagra to heroin.
Jane Allin writes in Part 2: Historical Perspectives — The Chemical Horse:
“Perhaps the greatest significance to the racehorse doping trend in the United States is the story of American trainer Jack Keene, who traveled overseas in quest of reaping the rewards of junked-up racehorses.”
But Keene was caught and banned. So he returned home.
“Unable to race horses in Europe, and now banned from racing horses in Russia, Keene soon returned home to Kentucky and his family farm — Keeneland — where he laid out the track that bears his name, and helped build Lexington into the influential Thoroughbred racehorse breeding and sales center it is today”.
Pacific Magazine, reporting on the history of doping in horse racing writes:
Barry Irwin, a prominent owner in today’s racing game, said in an interview that he will never forget something Harthill once told him: “Even though a horse is five or seven times larger than humans, the amount of dope needed to have an effect is so small. An amount on the tip of a match would be enough to flick up a horse’s nose to get a spectacular result.”
Spectacular result. That about says it all doesn’t it?
Louisiana Appeals Court upholds 2012 Dermorphin penalties; Dec. 10, 2014
• Quarter Horse trainer Bassett banned 10 years for frog juice; Sept 24, 2012
• Louisiana Racing Commission to meet late Sept on dermorphin cases; Sept 12, 2012
• New Mexico: Tests confirm dermorphin positives; Aug 31, 2012
• Dermorphin use now suspected in Nebraska racehorse; Aug 20, 2012
New York Times
• Turning to frogs for illegal aid horse racing; Jun 19, 2012