CHRB Defending Jeff Blea to the Last

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?

6 Comments

  1. Oh, good; my favorite topic! There’s just so many in this sick game (topics and dead horses), and it seems John Cherwa has kinda dropped the ball on reporting them for the L.A. Times So-Called Sports Department.

    Cherwa, you burned out? You took the lead on the whole Blea Blunder fiasco, and now that reasonable people are lining up against the CHRB’s side — “No Rules for Racing Vets!” — you got real quiet.

    • I dont think there is anything new to report right now, beyond his 3 articles this month. The license continues to be suspended

      • You may be right, James. Of course, the reason for Cherwa’s silence might also be that he’s joining the legions of others in the racing press in throwing up his hands in disgust (finally), and walking away from the game. I guess time will tell. (Should only be a couple more days til the NEXT Cali racing scandal, disaster, and/or CHRB clusterf*** that will require his attention.)

  2. Everyday that we don’t let the fox wearing wool socks babysit the chickens, the more chickens will not be safe. The chickens are not safe unless the fox is guarding the henhouse. Oh, yeah, this is definitely a witch hunt. How could it be anything else??? After all, the leading stakeholders of the horseracing industry have been given “free rein” or “free reign” to oversee who got to be on their blue-ribbon nominating committee of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority and all this really impressive stuff so why should anyone be questioning their “code of conduct” or “code of ethics”???
    Especially when their “strict conflict of interest restrictions” only apply to “independent” members while their “industry” members can “fly under the radar”… Hey! Hey! What could possibly be wrong with that????

  3. Blea is the dream veterinarian of the racing world and a nightmare for the horses.
    The CHRB is really stupid to defend this renegade.
    The brazen statement by Chairman Ferraro made me gasp in disbelief. He must be a little short on grey matter, not to mention morality!!
    And then his closing statement about the horses health and safety being compromised everyday Dr. Blea is not allowed to perform his duties is the icing on the cake!!!!! Surely he is joking!!!
    The poor horses will be a little safer without that rogue performing his illegal duties…

  4. Dr. Ferraro, “the health and safety of racehorses are being compromised every day that Dr. Blea is not allowed to perform his duties”? – oh come now, you’re being a bit dramatic, yes? Does your board not have plans in place for when a member is absent for any period of time?

    Since your mission statement places the horses LAST (referring to them as participants) on its list of duties (regulating wagering, promoting horse racing, promoting breeding, and promoting wagering opportunities all come before the “health and welfare of the participants”), surely you, also a vet, could pick up the slack for the last-in-line horses while Blea is away?

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