Rick Zeron’s suspension cut in half to 90 days, but $10,000 fine remains

Ontario’s Horse Racing Appeal Panel heard the horseman’s appeal in September and rendered its decision at the end of October in a case where the owner/trainer/driver was found guilty of possessing improperly labelled medications.

by Dave Briggs

Ontario’s Horse Racing Appeal Panel (HRAP) has ruled trainer/driver/owner Rick Zeron will serve a 90-day suspension (to begin Jan. 24, 2020) and pay a $10,000 fine for a series of infractions (full story here). The fine was upheld, but Zeron’s suspension was reduced to half of the 180-day suspension he was initially facing.

The case stems from an inspection of Zeron’s Ontario barn at Classy Lane Stables in July of 2018.

Through his lawyer, Larry Todd, Zeron did not contest the following two charges:

• Possessing improperly labelled medications.
• Failing to have proper prescription for medications.

He did contest the other three charges:

• Attempting to avoid detection by using counterfeit medication labels.
• Attempting to bribe another licensee to adjust their statement to help hide his use of counterfeit medication labels
• Using “shockwave” therapy within the prohibited 96 hour period on horses Lady Ella and Urban Legend prior to qualifying races.

The HRAP ruled Zeron did not possess any illegal medications and was not guilty of the bribery charge.

“An allegation of bribery is a very serious charge and can only be established with clear, cogent and compelling evidence. In our view, such evidence is not present in this case and accordingly, this charge is dismissed,” the decision said.

The HRAP found that Zeron’s horses Lady Ella and Urban Legend did receive “shockwave” therapy within the prohibited 96-hour period before their qualifying races, but said, “the issue is simply whether this offends the following Rule of Standardbred Racing… In our view, by defining “race” and “qualifying race” separately in the Rules, the intention of the drafters was to differentiate between the two. Rule 6.52(b) uses the term “race” and does not add the term “qualifying race.”

As to the charge of “attempting to avoid detection by using counterfeit medication labels,” the HRAP ruled, “the use of counterfeit medication labels appeared on products in Zeron’s barn and in his medicine cabinet and mini refrigerator over which he has responsibility… We have concluded that Zeron had both the motive and opportunity and we find that there is sufficient cogent, clear and compelling evidence that he did place counterfeit medication labels on the products in question in part to avoid detection. And using the labels of his own veterinarian constituted not only a deceptive practice but one worthy of censure.”

Later in the decision, the HRAP wrote, “this Count involves dishonest conduct that has no place in the activities of licensed horse people in the province of Ontario.”

The appeal was heard on Sept. 10 and 11 by panel members Stanley Sadinsky (the chair of the HRAP), John Charalambous and Bruce Murray. Their decision rendered on Oct. 23.

The full details for the case and the reason for the decision can be read here.