Neb. fines, suspends trainer in 'frog juice' case

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- The Nebraska Racing Commission has suspended a horse trainer for two years following an investigation into the use of a powerful stimulant called "frog juice" that's barred from use in the United States.

The commission also fined trainer Kim Veerhusen $2,500 on Wednesday, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (http://bit.ly/WO275R ). Veerhusen didn't attend the meeting and didn't respond to a call seeking comment.

A urine sample showed a horse trained by Veerhusen named Cheatin' Cowboy had "frog juice," or dermorphin, in his system when he finished second at a July 2012 race at Horsemen's Park in Omaha.

The Association of Racing Commissioners International lists dermorphin among the most harmful substances that might be given to horses. Regulators say the drug has no legitimate use in horses.

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium last year urged state racing commissions to be on the lookout for the drug, which it called a "threat to racing integrity." It said dermorphin is produced naturally as a skin secretion in certain species of South American frogs, but it also can be produced synthetically.

The synthetic form can be up to 40 times more powerful than morphine, masking pain that could potentially harm a horse's performance.

Nebraska veterinarian Richard Porter last year described the use as "kind of inhumane ... because if you force them to run, they break down even worse."

The banned substance has shown up at tracks in other states, including Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Louisiana. In September last year, the Louisiana State Racing Commission handed out suspensions ranging from three to 10 years to eight trainers whose horses tested positive for dermorphin.