Report: Derby DQ May Come Down To Legal Phrasing

As discussion around Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit’s positive betamethasone test continues, the attorney for owner Amr Zedan seems to already be preparing a legal challenge for a potential disqualification.

Kentucky regulations spell out penalties for trainers and for owners following a drug positive, depending on the number and class of drug violations for the relevant licensee. The penalties for owners include disqualification and loss of purse, as well as a potential requirement for horses to undergo further examination or testing before returning to racing.

As explained in the Louisville Courier-Journal, there seems to be some debate about what will happen if a split sample comes back positive. Dr. Mary Scollay, former equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, and Marc Guilfoil, current executive director for the commission, both point out that there is no “mitigating circumstance” language in the owner sanctions for a Class C positive. Stewards are given a range of possible suspensions and fines for trainers with the phrase “absent mitigating circumstances” at the end, meaning they can use discretion within those ranges depending on information they get from the trainer about how the drug became introduced to the horse — i.e., environmental contamination. There is no “mitigating circumstances” language at the end of the penalties outlined for owners in this circumstance.

Attorney Clark Brewster maintains however that the phrase “shall apply” when referring to the disqualification and loss of purse for owners is legally ambiguous. While lay people understand “shall” and “must” to be the same, Brewster points out that there is some variation in interpretation of the two words in legal settings. Brewster argues that stewards should take mitigating circumstances — like whether the drug was intended to advance performance — into account when they make their eventual decision.

Read more at the Louisville Courier-Journal

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