A recent Horse Racing Nation article begins thus: “The California Horse Racing Board circled the wagons in defense of its embattled equine medical director, Dr. Jeff Blea, during its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday.” Blea, I’m sure you remember, recently had his license suspended by the Veterinary Medicine Board. Apparently, though, the CHRB thinks that unwarranted. Chairman Greg Ferraro:
“Since his appointment on July 1, [Blea] has performed his duties with exceptional skill and grace. Unfortunately, he has now become a pawn in a politically driven agenda to disparage horse racing in California. People behind this effort are willing to besmirch and sully Dr. Blea’s reputation to achieve their ends. And while they are in the process of achieving these goals, health and safety of racehorses are being compromised every day that Dr. Blea is not allowed to perform his duties.”
“A pawn.” “Politically driven agenda to disparage.” “Besmirch and sully.” Okay, so here’s a refresher on the Vet Board’s accusations against Blea:
“The records show Respondent Blea administered the same drugs for multiple horses with the same trainer consecutively at approximately the same time. Respondent Blea provided drugs to a large number of horses not based on a documented examination, diagnosis or medical necessity, but instead based on what the trainer requests.
“The Board alleges that Respondent Blea administered medically unnecessary and non-FDA approved drugs to numerous racehorses. The Board’s findings and allegations established that racehorses are administered legal and illegal drugs to enhance performance in racing. Racing is not a medical condition or diagnosis. If Respondent Blea is allowed to continue his role in enforcement and investigations, his involvement alone will raise questions and will compromise the integrity of the drug testing program, the investigations, their findings, and their results due to the unquestionable conflict of interest.
“Veterinarians are prohibited from possessing or using any drug, substance, or medication that has not been approved by the FDA on the premises of a facility under the jurisdiction of CHRB. As an experienced veterinarian who has treated racehorses for over a decade, Respondent Blea should know and understand this regulation. Yet, on December 15, 2021, Respondent Blea announced that CHRB will begin a strict regulation of thyroxine, a thyroid medication, on January 1, 2022. Thyroxine…is not approved by the FDA, can cause cardiac arrhythmias, and squarely falls under the category of drugs prohibited by section 1867. Respondent Blea’s approval of prohibited veterinary practices proves that he cannot be trusted to be involved in any medication violation or death investigations.”
So there it is, folks. On the one side, the Vet Board. On the other, its horseracing counterpart – a joke of an agency that has been plagued by conflicts of interest for years. Is whom to believe, whom to side with, really in question?