Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Vacates Levamisole Sanctions Against Joe Sharp - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Vacates Levamisole Sanctions Against Joe Sharp

Nearly one year after trainer Joe Sharp appealed a 30-day suspension for a series of positive tests for levamisole, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission issued a one-sentence ruling on Jan. 14 vacating all sanctions against him.

The ruling read: “Due to the de-classification in August 2015 by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, all penalties previously assessed to Owner/Trainer Joe Sharp in Stewards' Rulings #21-0006, #21-0008, #21-0010, #21-0011 and #21-0012 are hereby vacated. By Order of the Stewards.”

The decision was first reported by Bloodhorse.com.

Sharp was cited for five positive tests for levamisole in horses that raced at Churchill Downs in November 2019. The Jan. 21, 2021, rulings stated levamisole is a Class B drug, even though the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission had voted in 2015 to declassify levamisole.

The Kentucky sanctions came after Sharp was fined $1,000 each but not suspended for eight positives in Louisiana for levamisole. Sharp said the positives resulted from use of an FDA-approved deworming product designed for cattle, sheep and goats that he used on his horses.

Clark Brewster, Sharp's attorney, told Paulick Report's Natalie Voss at the time the appeal was filed: “I found it to be extraordinarily unfair and damaging to Joe. It's just the intransigence of the stewards not having the courage to recognize the truth and say, 'OK, we're sorry about that. Let's get it right.”

Voss wrote at the time of the appeal: An important difference to Brewster is the history of changes of levamisole's classification. At one point, the drug was considered a Class A drug (the most serious category) and was later made a Class B. Then, in 2015, commissioners for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission unanimously agreed to remove levamisole from the drug classification scheme altogether after they detangled the association between levamisole and another drug called aminorex. Aminorex is a stimulant which has the potential for performance enhancement and was the primary substance of concern, they concluded. Initially it had been unclear whether one was a sign that the other had been administered, but Brewster said it's now generally accepted that levamisole can metabolize into aminorex, but not the other way around.

(Read more about the challenges of regulating levamisole and aminorex in this 2018 feature.

“This is truly beyond the pale of regulation,” Brewster told Voss when filing the appeal. “[The positives were] all over the news. Joe couldn't get stalls at Fair Grounds for a while. People pulled their horses, including one that ran in the Kentucky Derby (Art Collector). He was completely pilloried in the press, all on the basis that the stewards just didn't read the list.”

The five horses who tested positive for levamisole were disqualified and purse monies redistributed, according to 2020 rulings. They are: Zero Gravity (Nov. 14, 2019); Chitto (Nov. 19, 2019); Street Dazzle (Nov. 23, 2019); Blackberry Wine (Nov. 30, 2019); Art Collector (Nov. 30, 2019). The reversal of sanctions against Sharp does not affect those disqualifications.

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