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2 Ohio veterinarians suspended, fined for unlabeled substances

Two Ohio veterinarians have been fined $10,000 each and have been suspended for six months after an investigation at The Red Mile harness racetrack in Lexington.

The vets were suspended indefinitely Oct. 2 after a search of their vehicles turned up unlabeled substances.

After a hearing Monday, Kentucky Horse Racing Commission presiding judge Richard Williams imposed the new penalties on Dr. Rick Mather and Dr. Rick Rothfuss.

Hank Davis, Lexington attorney for the vets, said they do not plan to appeal.

"They think it's fair," Davis said Thursday.

He said the vets had cooperated with the racing commission. Davis said the compound was an over-the-counter remedy for soreness made by a Florida vet, Dr. Arthur Nestved, and used for more than 30 years on harness tracks without incident.

But it is not specifically approved for use by Kentucky or other state racing regulators or the federal Food and Drug Administration, Davis said.

"These strict penalties underscore our determination to protect the racing industry," said Lisa Underwood, KHRC executive director, in a statement. "Because other racing jurisdictions will honor our enforcement actions, these suspensions bar them from practicing veterinary medicine at any racetrack for six months."

Williams found that the vets violated state regulations on properly labeling medications. They also had not followed FDA procedures for compounded medicines, according to the commission. Williams' hearing report has not yet been released.

The investigation is ongoing; the racing commission is waiting on test results to show what exactly was in the medication. The commission also seized computer records, which are being analyzed.

The vets could face additional charges if the substance contains illegal medications.

The commission has not commented on what prompted the search of the vets' vehicles.

The search came after The Red Mile found four cases of alleged blood doping in random out-of-competition testing but it is unclear if the incidents are related.

Racing commission officials performed blood tests for "EPO," an illegal performance-enhancing drug, at the request of the racetrack. The commission has taken no action in the cases; the samples have been sent for confirmation testing by the four trainers involved.

Davis said the medication in his clients' vehicles did not contain EPO, although they aren't entirely sure what is in it. "Neither of my clients has any contact with EPO," Davis said. "We don't know why they were targeted."