Horsemen: Penalties for Dermorphin in Horses Should Be Harsh

The National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) and its affiliates said they have "zero tolerance" for trainers who use illegal Class 1 and Class 2 substances in racehorses in the wake of about 30 positives for the analgesic drug dermorphin in the southern United States.

The substance, fluid obtained certain South American frogs, was discovered in tests at Industrial Laboratories in Colorado and later by the Louisiana State University equine drug-testing laboratory. Dermorphin is a hepta-peptide that is a natural opiate more potent than morphine but less likely to produce addiction; it can kill pain, stimulate running, and suppress the feeling of exhaustion after exercise, the National HBPA said in a June 21 release on the topic.

"Dermorphin is doping," National HBPA chief executive officer Phil Hanrahan said. "Those who use dermorphin should be severely punished."

The substances found in the tests are believed to be synthetic variations. National HBPA officials said dermorphin, ranked a Class 1 drug by the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI), is reportedly administered just before post time in order to trigger "opiate-like effects."

In its release the horsemen's group cited RCI data that shows 99.26% of about 300,000 post-race drug tests from 2009-11 came back negative for "evidence of drug or medication use." In addition, less than three one-hundredths of 1% of the tests found illegal substances.

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