Bourbon, Coke, and Morphine: a Trainer's Troubles

You may have seen this recent story about a race horse that came in third in a race, was subsequently drug tested, and the results came back positive for morphine.

The trainer was adamant that he was innocent and hadn't drugged the horse, but the test results were considered more reliable than his word, and the trainer was charged with illegally drugging the horse and faced various serious penalties.


On my facebook page, I shared a list of equine applications ("apps") for smart phones, one of which is the FEI Clean Sport substance database.
The database is free and exceedingly interesting- you just type in the drug or substance you are curious about whether you (or your barn mate) should give to a horse.

According to the FEI, morphine is a "Prohibited Substance (Banned)."
There are a list of common trade names (i.e., Roxanol, Avinza, Kadian, among others- be sure to check the list of ingredients and do not rely merely on the product name.)

Further information is provided:
"Morphine is a prototype of a large class of natural and synthetic opioids.  It is prescribed for the relief of severe pain... Use in horses [is] prohibited by equine control bodies."

In case you didn't read the article, there is a more or less happy result:

'An examination of Waite's Thirlmere property, about two hours from Canberra, revealed an abundance of poppy flowers that were tested and shown to produce morphine along with codeine and papaverine.

"I've got literally thousands of them. They're growing in between the alley ways where I haven't mown for a while, in between the paddocks. This horse must have been getting her head over the fence when the other horse was out of the yard next to it because the electric tape was down.

"I grew up in the city and I wouldn't have known a poppy flower from a bloody bourbon and Coke."'

The trainer had to plead guilty to the horse's positive blood sample for morphine, but because he had no knowledge or control of the morphine drugging, he was absolved from any penalties.

As an aside, the FEI rules are handled through administrative hearings.  Lawyers are not necessary for representation, but by engaging lawyers who have an intimate knowledge of the equine industry and rules can help make an administrative hearing more expedient, less stressful, and hopefully result in a lighter sentence by helping bring to light important facts and evidence.

And one last note, always inspect your horse's pastures, your entire property, and your neighbors' properties for plants that are dangerous, toxic, and lethal to horses.
 Our neighbors like to plant oleander bushes, which are inexpensive and grow quickly, but are dangerous when ingested by horses, so we keep horses far from the fence line and inspect paddocks carefully when mucking them for any evidence of oleander foliage blown in by the wind.