Venin de cobra : alydar aussi !

Autres informations / 05.12.2008

Venin de cobra : alydar aussi !

C’est le grand déballage aux Etats-Unis dans le cadre

d’investigations sur l’emploi du venin de cobra à des fins illégales. Sans être

considéré comme substance interdite, son emploi n’est pas autorisé dans la

plupart des états américains. C’est à cause de la découverte de plusieurs

échantillons dans un réfrigérateur d’une de ses écuries que Patrick Biancone

avait écopé d’une longue interdiction de sa profession en 2007. Pourtant, le

responsable, un vétérinaire avait reconnu avoir entreposé provisoirement

lui-même ces échantillons avant de les transporter ailleurs. Résultat, Rodney

Stewart Le représentant de ce vétérinaire a tenu à interroger dans le cadre

d’une procédure d’appel John Veitch,



Sources :


By Ray Paulick

Under questioning by an attorney representing Rodney Stewart, the

veterinarian appealing a five-year suspension for his possession of cobra venom

and other banned substances at Keeneland in June 2007, John Veitch, chief

steward for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and a retired Hall of Fame

trainer, admitted that his racing star Alydar was treated with cobra venom

after suffering an injury in September of his 3-year-old season.Attorney Mike

Meuser asked Veitch about the use of the now-banned substance during an appeal

of Stewart’s suspension before racing commission hearing officer Bob Layton on

Wednesday in Lexington, Ky. “Did Dr. Charles Allen give cobra venom to Alydar during

the time you trained him?” Meuser asked.

“On one occasion,” Veitch confirmed, saying it came after Alydar had

fractured the coffin bone in a foot while training up to the 1978 Marlboro Cup

Handicap. “It wasn’t effective,” Veitch said. “We would not have run him again

if it had worked. We treated him at the time. He was not in training. We

experimented with Dr. Chuck Allen, who was an expert on venom. At the time,

cobra venom was legal for use in the United States for treating Lou Gehrig’s

disease (ALS). We tried it and it didn’t work. We didn’t use it as therapy so

he could race, but only to see if we could relieve some pain.”

Technically, cobra venom, a powerful blocking agent, is not an illegal

substance. It is not approved for use in humans or animals by the FDA and is

prohibited in most racing jurisdictions, including Kentucky, which classifies

it as a "Class A" drug, one that can be abused as an illegal

performance enhancing substance.

Three vials of venom and other prohibited substances were found during a

search of three barns on Keeneland property used by trainer Patrick Biancone

and in a vehicle registered to Stewart. Most of the substances were found in a

soft-sided cooler kept in a refrigerator in Barn 74, located in the barn

area  known as the Keeneland training center off Keeneland’s main property

across Rice Road. Stewart admitted to officials the substances were his and

that he was only using a refrigerator in Biancone’s barn because he and his

wife were in the process of moving from Kentucky to New York. Stewart said his

wife had packed the bag with medications usually kept in a refrigerator at

their rented home, but that he had been living in temporary quarters. He said

he wasn’t aware of everything that was in the bag. Biancone was suspended for

six months and agreed not to seek reinstatement for another six months. Stewart

received a five-year ban. As chief steward of the Kentucky Horse Racing

Commission, Veitch was in charge of the investigation involving the banned

substances and the hearing that led to the suspensions.

Bob Watt, an attorney representing the racing commission, called several

witnesses in addition to Veitch, including one of the investigators who

conducted the search, commission veterinarian Mary Scollay and Keeneland executive

Harvie Wilkinson.

Scollay called cobra venom an "exceedingly dangerous" substance

that could cause a loss of sensation in a horse’s foot and block pain. She said

there is no known test to detect cobra venom in urine or blood.

During cross-examination of Wilkinson, who among other things oversees

security at Keeneland, Meuser asked whether Keeneland officials ever sought

approval from the racing commission to have the Rice Road training facility

recognized as part of Keeneland’s racetrack grounds. Wilkinson said he was not

aware that they had sought approval.

The purpose of that question came to light later in the day when Stewart

himself was testifying and Meuser asked if he believed Barn 74 was part of the

racetrack property. "I thought it was a private barn," Stewart


"I thought it was Patrick’s private barn. He’d always referred to it

that way."

Records showed that Stewart had purchased four vials of the cobra venom in

July 2006 from BioToxins, a Saint Cloud, Fla., company. The veterinarian testified

that he had used one of the vials on a former racehorse that had been rescued

from a farm and was being used as a stable pony. The other vials remained in

their shrinkwrap packaging. The vials contain a powder which is then mixed in a

salilne solution before injection.

Among the other substances seized was a container of Carbidopa-Levodopa, a

human medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease. Scollay testified that the

drug could act as a stimulant and reduce fatigue in humans. In later testimony,

Stewart said he did not use the drug on any horses but did not recall why he

had it. Another bottle with an unknown honey-like substance inside was labeled

"For Mythical Elmo," according to the testimony, but it was more

likely meant for the Biancone-trained filly Mythical Echo. Its contents remain


Another bottle found was labeled with the lettering "R.T.H.." When

asked about the "R.T.H." substance, Stewart said "a fellow from

South Africa had given it to me. It was used there to treat bleeding."

When pressed he said he had no idea what pharmacological agents were contained

in the liquid. .Stewart said he has had his license to practice on

"competition animals" (including horses, greyhounds and camels)

suspended in Australia, where he earned his veterinary degree in 1997. He is

banned from racetracks but is allowed to continue his veterinary practice in

the United States.

The hearing will continue Dec. 9. Among the issues to be covered area the

contents of Stewart’s personal computer, which has been sent to a business that

conducts forensic searches on computer hard drives to extract any 

information related to his veterinary practice for a period of time prior to

his suspension.

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By Ray Paulick

Attorneys for Rodney Stewart, the veterinarian suspended for five years by

Kentucky racing authorities in the 2007 “cobra venom” case that also implicated

trainer Patrick Biancone, said in opening statements in an appellate hearing on

Wednesday morning the suspension against their client was excessive and should

be lifted.

Mike Meuser and Karen Murphy are representing Stewart, who received a

four-year ban for possession of prohibited substances and a one-year suspension

for failure to cooperate in the investigation. The appeal is being heard by Bob

Layton, a hearing officer for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which is

represented by attorney Bob Watt.

Click here

to see the original ruling.

In his opening statements, Meuser said Stewart had no intention of using the

prohibited substances found in a refrigerator and packed in a soft-sided cooler

in one of three barns Biancone occupied and that they had been packed by

Stewart’s wife in preparation for the couple’s move to New York. In fact,

Meuser contended, Stewart wasn’t even aware of the cooler’s contents, which the

attorney said were placed in the refrigerator because it was a “hot June day.”

Meuser said, the three vials of prohibited cobra toxin found in the bag were

still shrink-wrapped. Another prohibited substance found, Carbidopa-Levodopa (a human drug to treat

Parkinson’s disease), was still in its original container, Meuser said,

and its usage date had expired. “There is no evidence there was any attempted

use of any of these substances,” said Meuser, who added that the cooler also

contained rabies vaccines for dogs and cats.

Watt, in his statement, said the cobra venom, a powerful painkiller, had

been purchased from BioToxins, a Florida-based company that specialized in

snake venom. Watt referred to other substances discovered in the June 22, 2007,

barn searches conducted by investigators with the racing commission (then known

as the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority) and Keeneland security, including

Ketoconazole, “something called Throat RX, and one injectable honey colored

solution marked ‘For Mythical Elmo.’”

Meuser did not address the latter substances in his opening statement.

Watt said Stewart and his attorneys failed to properly respond to requests

that were made to Stewart for billing and computer records, which resulted in

the one-year suspension for failure to cooperate. Murphy countered that the ban

should be lifted because the commission failed to give Stewart a hearing within

48 hours of a request for a stay of the suspension. She also complained that the

request for a home computer was unreasonable and that the commission “was

fishing for further violations,” even going so far, she said, as conducting

tests in Hong Kong.

Biancone, who recently returned to training in California, was out of racing

about one year, accepting a six-month suspension and agreeing not to apply for

his trainer’s license for another six months.

A number of witnesses are being called in the case. Layton is expected to

make a ruling within 60 days of the completion of the hearing.

To read about some of the testimony in the hearing, click here.

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Tags: biotoxins,

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mike meuser, mythial elmo, mythical elmo, parkinson's, patrick biancone,

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