Ron Ellis Suspended and Fined for Drug Use of Masochistic During 2016 Breeders’ Cup
The ongoing case involving trainer Ron Ellis has come to a conclusion. A recommended ruling from the stewards at the Los Alamitos Race Course Dec. 17 was upheld by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) to suspend trainer Ron Ellis 60 days and fine him $10,000 for the drug violation with Masochistic in the 2016 TwinSpires Breeders Cup Sprint (G1).
Masochistic was disqualified from the race for failing a post-race drug test. The stewards had conducted hearings into the case since May 22, 2017 and sent a recommendation to the CHRB for its closed session Dec. 14. The CHRB could have accepted, rejected, or modified the recommended sanctions, and chose to accept the stewards’ recommendation. The suspension will run from Jan. 1 to March 1.
Masochistic was disqualified from his second-place Breeders’ Cup Sprint finish because of the test, which discovered 30 picograms per milliliter of the anabolic steroid stanozolol and 161 picograms of its metabolite 16-hydroxy stanozolol. On Oct. 28 of 2016, eight days before the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Masochistic had a test that showed 179 picograms of stanozolol and 252 picograms of 16-hydroxy stanozolol. A picogram is one trillionth of a gram.
“The research tends to indicate that stanozolol … at the very least has the potential to influence performance,” the stewards’ document of recommendation to the CHRB stated. “While it is clear that the anabolic steroid does not directly affect performance, it almost certainly indirectly affects performance for the very reason it was administered.”
More information from the case reported by Blood-Horse showed the case brought by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Deputy Attorney General Vanessa Martinez sought penalties beyond normal guidelines for the overage, which is classified as a “class 3” medication with a “category B” penalty. Those guidelines call for a minimum 30-day suspension (minimum $500 fine) and a maximum 60-day suspension (maximum $10,000 fine).
The state sought a 120-day suspension and a $25,000 fine based on key aspects of the case that featured “aggravating” circumstances.
Ultimately the stewards found the fact that Ellis “knew the risk” from the Oct. 28 test “and decided to run his horse despite that risk,” was “extremely aggravating,” which led to the decision to hand down the maximum suspension and fine. They opted not to recommend sanctions for Ellis to the level the state was seeking, because “we do not believe the rules allow this action, nor do we believe that the facts demand it.”
According to the ruling issued Sunday—almost a year after the positive test in Masochistic was announced by the CHRB—Ellis “shall forfeit all assigned stall space and shall remove from the enclosures all signage, colors, advertisements, training-related equipment, tack, office equipment, and any other property during his suspension.” It also said Ellis “shall not transfer any horses to licensed family members or any other licensee who has been an employee of his within the previous year.”
Ellis said Sunday afternoon that he is considering an appeal, pending a conversation with his attorney, Steve Schwartz. He described the penalty as “egregious.”
“I’ll meet with my lawyer and explore an appeal,” he said. “I want to explore my options.”
For more details on the hearing and decisions by the CHRB, click here.
Steroids are not allowed at any level in post-race tests. Pre-race tests showed the presence of the steroid at trace level. The medication was still present in a post-race test, resulting in a violation.
Because of the positive, Ellis was banned from running horses in the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar last month, while Masochistic was barred from running in the Breeders’ Cup. The suspensions are not in effect for 2018.