The National Greyhound Association (NGA) is calling on the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, to work with the greyhound racing industry to promulgate and publish “a sensible, veterinary-based drug testing regimen that protects greyhound health, ensures the integrity of the sport, and provides a fair basis for consistent compliance and enforcement.”
The call comes in response to a December 22 ruling by Administrative Law Judge Lawrence P. Stevenson, who found that state regulators acted illegally earlier this year when they suspended the licenses of two greyhound trainers after the dogs tested positive for traces of a cocaine metabolite. The trainers petitioned the state to invalidate the suspensions, in part because the testing was based on procedures the DPBR was ordered to discontinue in 2015.
The judge found that the positive tests were the result of improper urine sampling procedures that were never officially adopted as state law. The state’s failure to officially promulgate and publish the drug-testing rules effectively invalidates any pending enforcement actions.
Attorney Jennifer Rosenblum, who represented the suspended trainers, said Judge Stevenson has yet to rule on another issue raised in the petition, the contention that the state has failed to establish and publish sensible threshold levels for the substances showing up in trace amounts. A ruling on that count is expected in January.
“Class I violations are being reported for incredibly low trace levels of environmental contaminants that can easily be transferred to greyhounds from the people and objects around them,” Rosenblum said. “Because the Department has never adopted or published acceptable thresholds for any substances, even the tiniest trace amounts are being treated as major violations. That’s not responsible regulation, and it defies common sense.”
NGA Executive Director James Gartland said his organization welcomed the judge’s ruling, and is eager to work constructively with Florida regulators to develop a more responsible drug-testing policy based on sound veterinary science.
“Humans and animals, including greyhounds, can easily pick up trace amounts of cocaine and other drugs from their environment,” Gartland said. “The state should consult with veterinary experts to develop sensible policies that distinguish between trace amounts resulting from environmental contaminants and higher amounts that suggest intentional doping to affect greyhound performance.”
Gartland concluded, “What we have now is a sloppy, careless mess of unadopted, unpublished and inconsistent procedures that produce unfair results. That’s why the judge ruled as he did. Now we have an opportunity to create a much better policy that is fair, professional and based on common-sense standards. The NGA strongly supports that kind of regulatory approach.”