Suspended racetrack veterinarian sues racing panel

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Jun 07, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
Lexington, Ky. -- A racetrack veterinarian recently suspended for five years for medication violations, including possession of cobra venom, filed suit against the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to have the suspension overturned, claiming that it was "not supported by substantial evidence, is arbitrary and/or an abuse of discretion."

Attorneys for Rodney Stewart, DVM, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., contend that a Kentucky statute barring possession of medications that "may endanger the health and safety of the horse or safety of the rider" is "unconstitutionally vague and overbroad."

They also argue that the commission's determination that cobra venom would endanger horses and riders is not supported by substantial evidence. The suit accuses the racing panel of disregarding evidence from Stewart that cobra venom has therapeutic value and was even recommended for Standardbred horses in Kentucky when officials searched his possessions in 2007.

Following the search, racing stewards suspended Stewart in September 2007 for four years for possession alpha cobra toxin and one year for possession of carbidopa and levodopa. The racing commission upheld the stewards' decision May 12 on appeal.

At an earlier hearing, Stewart had said three vials of powdered venom found in a refrigerator at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington were there only by chance, packed in a case in transit to New York, and that he never gave the substance to an active racehorse.

His lawsuit contends the penalties against him were excessive and challenges whether the property where the items were found was even within the commission's jurisdiction, considering that it is not on the main Keeneland premises.

The barn where the substances were found was occupied by trainer Patrick Biancone, who also was suspended for a time but has since returned to active training in another state.