The U.S. Equestrian Federation Hearing Committee has issued its first decision imposing penalties pursuant to the Equine Drugs & Medications Penalty Guidelines that went into effect Jan. 1, 2016.
The penalty guidelines recommend ranges of penalties for violations of the drugs & medications rules with regard to particular categories of forbidden substances. Substances in Category IV, which include GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, contain the most serious penalties. The penalty guidelines also take into account whether it is the respondent's first, second or third offense.
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which can act as a tranquilizer.
Larry Glefke received a 24-month suspension and a $24,000 fine after Kelley Farmer's horse, Unexpected, tested positive for GABA at the Kentucky Summer Horse Show in a pre-green hunter 3'3" class on July 28, 2016. Glefke was identified on Unexpected's entry blank as the trainer. Farmer was identified as Unexpected's owner and rider.
The Hearing Committee also found sufficient evidence to support imposing a 12-month suspension and a $12,000 fine against Farmer in her capacity as a “Person Responsible,” and thus accountable for the condition of the horse under General Rule 404 of the Drugs & Medications rules.
A USEF spokesperson said both GABA suspensions start July 1.
Glefke will start serving a five-month suspension for a different infraction on Feb. 1. For that violation, a horse under his care, Symbolic, tested positive for the tranquilizer acepromazine and its metabolite, 2-(1-hydroxyethyl) promazine sulfoxide, at the Aiken Spring Classic Masters Horse Show (S.C.), held April 15-19, 2015. Lane Change Farm barn manager Debbie Buchanan will serve the same suspension, and both parties are required to pay a $5,000 fine.
“Furthermore, they participated in the filing of false medication report forms for the horses Symbolic and So To Speak at said competition thus acting in a manner that is prejudicial to the best interests of the sport and Federation,” stated the USEF’s hearing committee report.
In support of the GABA penalty against Glefke, the Hearing Committee referenced his prior reserpine violation, also a Category IV substance, the recent violation involving the sedative acepromazine, and the violation for filing false medication report forms. These are factors considered under the penalty guidelines for enhancement of penalties. Likewise, the Hearing Committee noted Farmer's prior reserpine violation as a factor that attributed to the penalty awarded against her.
The Hearing Committee expressed concern that despite their awareness of the charges against them and of the scheduled hearing, neither Glefke nor Farmer attended the Nov. 29, 2016, hearing or submitted any witnesses or evidence to rebut the charges against them.
"We applaud the Hearing Committee's decision in this matter,” said USEF Chief Executive Officer Bill Moroney. “We are focused on ensuring safety and fairness in equestrian sport. The use of GABA in horses competing in USEF competitions compromises these priorities. Our equine drugs & medications program is designed to protect our horses, as well as the participants who compete clean horses. It's clear from the penalties issued in this decision that the Hearing Committee takes the purposes of the program very seriously."
Glefke and Farmer released a statement on Jan. 12 drafted by their counsel, Bonnie Navin, in response to the GABA suspensions. The statement indicats that Gledke and Farmer were unaware of the GABA charges. “There is no way Mr. Glefke or Ms. Farmer wouldn’t have retained proper representation, secured a B sample of the blood, submitted evidence in writing and had experts on the medicine at a hearing, if they were aware of the charge,” Navin wrote in the statement.