SHAKOPEE, MN – As expected this weekend, the stewards at Canterbury Park suspended nine-time leading trainer and track Hall of Famer Mac Robertson for 90-days and levied a fine of $2000 as a result of a positive methamphetamine test on Purest Form on June 7, 2015.
Purest Form won a $7500 claiming race at Canterbury as the favorite. A post race drug test conducted by Industrial Laboratories on June 20 showed the presence of methamphetamine in trace amounts. The findings were confirmed by the Maddy Laboratory at the University of California, Davis when they conducted a split sample test on July 15, 2015. The amount of meth found in the horse’s system was 74 picograms per milliliter. A picogram is one-trillionth of a gram.
Though the amount of the drug is considered a trace, most likely from environmental contamination, a “zero tolerance” policy toward the drug resulted in the suspension and fine.
“They use science to nail us to the wall with these minute levels while at the same time the science says that a picogram is in no way performance enhancing,” said Robertson.
“You know,” he continued, “I had a scientist tell me that if I shook someone’s hand who used meth and then applied a tongue tie to my horse it could result in this level of contamination. How do you stop that?”
“We had some questions about the science,” he said, “and the Commission told the lab not to talk to us. How can they get ready to take away my livelihood and not let us talk to the testing lab?”
The Stewards also disqualified Purest Form from first place and declared the horse unplaced. All purse money was ordered returned. Pari-mutuel payoffs remain unaffected.
Canterbury Park took what’s believed to be the unprecedented step of issuing a statement in support of the trainer.
“Canterbury Park supports and funds drug testing as a deterrent to the use of performance enhancing substances in horse racing. However, Canterbury Park management does not believe that Mr. Robertson, an upstanding and respected member of Canterbury Park’s racing program for many years, administered a performance enhancing substance to the horse referenced in this case but is a victim of environmental contamination,” the statement begins.
The statement went on to address the zero-tolerance policy and the stewards actions.
“We realize the Board of Stewards under the direction of the Minnesota Racing Commission was in a difficult position in this matter based on the zero-tolerance and trainer responsibility rules. The integrity of the sport is of upmost importance but scientific advances in drug testing have made zero tolerance rules for contaminants impractical. When the Stewards’ ruling is appealed to the MRC we hope that they take into the mitigating circumstances in this case.”
“It’s appreciated,” Robertson said of the statement. “I owe everything I have to Canterbury Park. I’ve supported them in the past and now they are supporting me. I’d like to think that it’s because they know that I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Robertson has appealed the decision to Minnesota Racing Commission. He has also filed for a stay of the suspension until his appeal is decided.
“I hope to find out soon [about the stay]. I guess they can be pretty tough on stays if they feel I’m a danger to the public. I don’t think I’m a danger to the public – unless I fall over on someone,” said the built like a linebacker Robertson.
“I’ve had over 300 horses go through the [test] barn in the last 2-years,” he continued, “and have zero positives. I have no motivation to do it. I had this horse tested pre-race because I got it from another trainer and wanted to be safe. The results came back that it was clean to race.”
The suspension is scheduled to begin on July 30 and run until October 27. Robertson is currently second in the trainer’s standings at Canterbury this season with 22 winners from 93 starters. Additionally, he leads the trainer standings at Delaware Park with 21 wins from 69 starters.
Robertson notified the Delaware stewards of the situation in Minnesota but no action will be taken until the case is closed here.
“I have never wanted to win a race if I had to cheat,” he said. “I’ve put everything in my life into racing. When this first happened it felt like a bad dream. At first I was embarrassed and a bit ashamed, but I don’t feel that way now.
“I just want to train my horses in the morning and graze them in the afternoon.”