‘Clearly Another Case Of Contamination’: CHRB Complaint Reveals Dextorphan Positive In Baffert Trainee

The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) has filed a complaint against Baffert after his trainee Merneith tested positive for dextorphan this summer. Merneith, who earlier this year was third in the Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks, received the positive test post-race after she finished second in the fourth race on Del Mar’s July 25 card. Baffert trains the daughter of American Pharoah for HRH Prince Sultan Bin Mishal Al Saud.

A split sample confirmed the original violation, according to the Sept. 17 CHRB complaint. Complaints are filed for alleged violations that have not yet been through the hearing or adjudication process. A hearing in the case is set for Nov. 12 at Del Mar.

Baffert said the finding was a result of environmental contamination.

“A number of my staff were sick with COVID this summer, including Merneith’s groom,” Baffert said via email. “I learned he had been taking over-the-counter cough syrups that contained Dextrorphan. This has been an issue in other states where contamination has lead to positive tests. That’s what happened here. This is clearly another case of contamination. Ultimately, this is my responsibility. It’s really embarrassing for the barn, but that’s what happened. #2020 sucks.”

Dextorphan is a metabolite of dextromethorphan, which is a Class 4 drug according to the Association of Racing Commissioners International’s classification system. Class 4 drugs are primarily therapeutic drugs which “may influence performance but generally have a more limited ability to do so” as compared to those in other classes. Dextromethorphan is a common ingredient in human cough syrups, though it can also be a drug of abuse, given its capacity to act as an anesthetic in high doses. It has no Food and Drug Administration-approved use in the horse, but regulators have been told it has been used experimentally to quiet nervous behaviors like cribbing.

The metabolism of dextorphan and dextromethorphan were the subject of a study several years ago in Kentucky. The research found that dextromethorphan breaks down quickly in a horse’s body, turning it into dextorphan. But unlike some other substances, dextorphan briefly increases in the horse’s system as the dextromethorphan breaks down, and then it tapers off more gradually than testing experts had previously realized. The research in Kentucky led to three dextorphan positives being dismissed — not because the commission agreed they were the result of environmental contamination, but rather because it was unclear when the horses had been exposed to dextromethorphan, given the study results about the drug metabolism.

Dextorphan carries a penalty category of B, which has variable suspension lengths depending upon the number of previous violations from a licensee within a 365-day period.

News of the dextorphan positive comes hard on the heels of an acknowledgement by Baffert that Gamine tested positive for betamethasone following her third-place effort in the G1 Kentucky Oaks this year. Split sample testing in that case has not yet been completed, but Baffert’s attorney maintains the drug was administered in the recommended timeframe outlined by Kentucky’s rules. Gamine and Charlatan also tested positive for lidocaine following races at Oaklawn this spring, which Baffert attributed to environmental contamination from an employee’s over-the-counter pain patch. He told media he planned to appeal those rulings by Arkansas stewards.

The post ‘Clearly Another Case Of Contamination’: CHRB Complaint Reveals Dextorphan Positive In Baffert Trainee appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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