Vet in Cobra Venom Case Sues Racing Commission

Rodney Stewart, DVM, who was suspended five years by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for violating various medication violations including possession of cobra venom, has filed a suit in Franklin (Kentucky) Circuit Court alleging that the action was "not supported by substantial evidence, is arbitrary and capricious, and/or an abuse of discretion."

On May 12, the commission unanimously adopted the recommended report of a hearing officer that upheld the Kentucky stewards' actions against Stewart dating back to Sept. 17, 2007. The stewards suspended the veterinarian for possession of multiple prohibited substances, mislabeled medications, and other matters, according to the report. He was suspended for four years for possessing alpha cobra toxin and one year for possessing the substances carbidopa and levodopa, for a total of five years. Stewart had also received additional suspensions for medication labeling violations and additional violations which were to run concurrently with the five-year suspension. The substances were found during a June 22, 2007 search and seizure of items in a barn at the Keeneland training center occupied by trainer Patrick Biancone.

Biancone was also suspended, and is now back training, based in Southern California.

Stewart's attorneys--Mike Meuser and Michelle Hurley of Lexington and Karen Murphy of Old Chatham, N.Y.--contend that state statutes prohibiting the "possession of a drug, medication or substance which, if used, may endanger the health and welfare of the horse or safety of the rider is invalid because it is unconstitutionally vague and over-broad."

Also, the suit contends that the commission's finding that cobra venom is a drug that would endanger the health and welfare of a horse and safety of the rider is not supported by "substantial evidence, is arbitrary and capricious and/or an abuse of discretion." The suit states the commission disregarded evidence presented on behalf of Stewart that showed cobra venom has a therapeutic benefit to horses and at the time of the June 22, 2007 search was recommended for use in Standardbred horses in the state.

The suit cites similar reasons why the commission's actions with regard to carbidopa and levodopa in the Stewart case should be overturned.

Additionally, the suit states the penalties assessed Stewart are excessive and challenges whether the property where the barn was located was within jurisdiction of the commission, since it was not on the main Keeneland track premises.

(Originally published at  

About the Author

Ron Mitchell/The Horse

Ron Mitchell is Online Managing Editor for The Blood-Horse magazine. A Lexington native, Mitchell joined The Blood-Horse after serving in editorial capacities with The Thoroughbred Record and Thoroughbred Times, specializing in business and auction aspects of the industry, and was editor-in-chief of the award-winning Horsemen’s Journal. As online managing editor, Mitchell works closely with The Blood-Horse news editor and other departments to make sure the website content is the most thorough and accurate source for all Thoroughbred news, results, videos, and data.

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