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New Mexico passes bill to crack down on horse racing cheaters UPDATE: Governor signs bill into law

By   /   February 21, 2014  /   1 Comment

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

SANTA FE  – After developing a reputation as a haven for cheaters, New Mexico is trying to clean up its act when it comes to horse racing.

In the just-completed 30-day legislative session, lawmakers in Santa Fe, lawmakers passed a bill aimed at cracking down on trainers and owners who dope their horses with performance-enhancing drugs.

“I say that horse racing is the sport of kings and we don’t want it to be the sport of cheaters,” said Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, of Senate Bill 116, which passed both chambers of the New Mexico legislature unanimously. Gov. Susana Martinez has indicated she will sign the bill into law in the within the next three weeks.

Update 3/3: Gov. Martinez signed the bill on Monday. “I’m thrilled to death that we are finally getting a handle on the use of illegal methods to enhance the horse’s ability to win races in New Mexico,” said Sen. Papen. “I applaud the governor for signing such an important piece of legislation.”

CLEANING UP THE SPORT OF KINGS: The New Mexico Legislature just passed a bill that will eject horse trainers and owners suspected of doping race horses from the state's race tracks.

CLEANING UP THE SPORT OF KINGS: The New Mexico Legislature just passed a bill that will eject horse trainers and owners suspected of doping race horses from the state’s race tracks.

Under the bill, race track owners can eject anyone whose license has been suspended or revoked for drugging horses from the grounds of their facilities.

Furthermore, in cases where doping has been suspected, a hearing officer will be assigned within 90 days, with the final decision made by the New Mexico Racing Commission. Those accused can appeal by putting up a $500 fee but if they lose their case, they forfeit the $500.

“I think it makes all the sense in the world,” said Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, who sponsored her own bill that mirrored Papen’s. “We need to be a leader in the nation and not have everybody looking at New Mexico and saying, ‘If you want to cheat, go the Land of Enchantment.’ ”

Under the current system, those suspected of drugging their horses could remain at racetracks, as long as their cases were being appealed.

As a result, a backlog has developed. The longest-running case involves trainer Jose R. Gonzalez Jr., accused of injecting a horse with a drug that’s a byproduct of cocaine, which hasn’t been resolved for nearly five years.

Among some of the other drugs listed in the appeals is Clenbuterol – which increases oxygen into the lungs of a horse and was banned by the racing commission in 2012 – and Dermorphin – a painkiller considered 40 times more powerful than morphine that’s known around race tracks as “frog juice.”

The reasoning behind injecting horses with pain killers is that if the horse has a nagging injury, the drugs will numb it so that the horse will run through the pain. But by doing so, the horses are liable to worsen their injuries or even break down, which often leads to their being killed.

The just-passed bill is one of a number of efforts to clean up horse racing in New Mexico.

Last year, two state laws were passed to improve testing procedures and dramatically increase fines for those caught injecting their horses with illegal substances and the racing commission has passed a series of regulations to improve the safety of jockeys and horses at New Mexico’s five licensed tracks.

“Everybody should play by the rules,” Ezzell told New Mexico Watchdog. “It’s time cheaters understand we aren’t going to allow this to continue in the state of New Mexico.”

Here’s a list of appeals and reviews on file across the state, courtesy of KRQE-TV:

Racing Commission Appeals

  • Jose R. Gonzalez, Jr.: D-202-CV-2010-03580 (2009 race) – Benzoylecgonine and Cocaine
  • Joyce D. Salisbury: D-202-CV-2012-04935 (2011 race)- Lidocaine
  • Gerardo Cano: D-202-CV-2012-06639 (2011 race)- Contraband
  • Juan Torres: D-202-CV-2011-11866 (2011 race)- Clenbuterol
  • Cal E. Martin: D-202-CV-2012-05499 (2011 race)- Valerenic Acid
  • Homero Gutierrez: D-202-CV-2013-02117 (2011 race)- Clenbuterol
  • Freda McSwane: CV-10-145 (12th Judicial District) 2nd place challenge

Record on Reviews Filed

  • Fred Ike Danley: D-202-CV-2012-09669 (2012 race)- Clenbuterol
  • Abraham Jaquez: D-202-CV-2013-05590 (2012 race)- Clenbuterol D-202-CV-2013-06078 (2013 race)- Zipaterol
  • Roberto Sanchez: D-202-CV-2013-05251 (2012 race)- Clenbuterol
  • Alonso Orozco: D-202-CV-2013-10621 (2012 race)- Clenbuterol
  • Chris A. Hartman: D-202-CV-2012-05018 (2012 race)-Clenbuterol
  • Paul C. Jones : D-202-CV-2013-06237 (2011 race)- Zipaterol
  • Judy Bachicha : D-202-CV-2013-01487 (2012 race)- Phenylbutazone and Oxyphenylbutazone
  • Damian S. Onsurez : D-202-CV-2013-06781- 2013 Possession of syringe
  • Henry Dominguez : D-202-CV-2013-03118 (2013 race)-
  • Eduardo A. Gonzalez: D-202-CV-2013-03844 (2013 race)- Clenbuterol

Record on Reviews to be Filed in February 2014

  • Carlos Sedillo : D-202-CV-2012-09672 (2012 race)- Demorphin *Due Feb 17, 2014
  • Juan Gonzalez: D-202-CV-2013-02648 (2012 race)- Clenbuterol * Due Feb 17, 2014
  • John D. Martinez : D-202-CV-2013-02648 (2012 race)- Zipaterol & Zylazine *Due Feb 27, 2014

Cases in Court of Appeals

  • John Stinebaugh : D-202-CV-2012-01864 (2011 race)- Clenbuterol Court of Appeals No. 32,840
  • Chris A. Hartman: D-202-CV-2012-06186 Contraband (Ventipulmin) Appealed to Court of Appeals
  • Cal E. Martin: D-202-CV-2012-05499 (2011 race)- Valerenic Acid Appealed to Court of Appeals

And here’s a recent story the station aired:

Contact Rob Nikolewski at rnikolewski@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski

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Since 2010, Rob Nikolewski has covered New Mexico politics and investigated fraud, waste and abuse in government. He also writes an opinion column in the Sunday editions of the Santa Fe New Mexican. Rob joined New Mexico Watchdog after 20 years in television as a sports anchor and reporter. He anchored at MSNBC, New York City, Boston, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Reno and Boise, winning three regional Emmy awards along the way. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, a master's in public administration from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and a bachelor's degree in journalism from Trinity University in San Antonio.

  • L.E. Liesner

    Well I’m glad to see that they are cleaning up the horse racing industry, but when are they going to clean up the cheating and fraud in the EBT card and welfare industry, That is probably to close to their base, and of course it’s only stealing from the taxpayers.