Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 9, 2018 – A crowd gathered on the patio outside White Horse Tavern, nestled directly beside the Winter Equestrian Festival showgrounds, the afternoon of Thursday, Feb. 8, to listen to and participate in an open discussion about the highly-publicized legal battle between US Equestrian (USEF) and Lane Change Farm’s Larry Glefke and Kelley Farmer. Led by Glefke and Farmer’s legal team consisting of Bonnie Navin, Paul Regensdorf and Michael Romm, the public conversation consisted of an abridged chronological overview of the legal proceedings concerning the 2016 drug charges brought against Glefke and Farmer as well as frank commentary regarding USEF’s shortcomings according to the defense. USEF representatives were invited to the meeting, but chose not to attend.
For a full stream of the proceedings, please view the video below:
First with the microphone, Navin initiated the conversation by stating that, “we have a lot of respect for USEF. I do not want anyone to think we are here to trash USEF or talk poorly about them…this is not about Larry Glefke and Kelley Farmer at this point. This is about the process. This is about anybody who reads or picks up a USEF rulebook. You have to know those rules, you have to understand those rules and unfortunately a lot of those rules don’t have a logical conclusion.
“Today I had a lovely conversation with Murray Kessler over at the horse show — our first opportunity, simply by chance, to talk. We will say that we are so grateful for the changes that have been made at this point. We are very grateful for the memo that Bill Moroney put out yesterday, which does two things. One, it shows you that your organization is going to get a lot better. Two, it shows, despite what you folks may feel, that you should stand up and applaud Larry Glefke and Kelley Farmer because they took the time and the money to dig and get down to the truth of what’s happening here.”
To view the press release issued by USEF CEO Bill Moroney in its entirety, please click here.
Navin was the first legal representative for Glefke and Farmer’s case, and has been fighting for their cause since the public reveal of her clients’ disciplinary sanctions in January 2017, when Glefke and Farmer allege they learned about the charges against them regarding the July 2016 blood sample taken from Unexpected at the Kentucky Summer Horse Show, which tested positive for GABA. Up until that time, they claim they were not made aware of either the charge or the applicable hearing in November 2016, where the trainer and rider would have stated their case. For more information on USEF’s initial disciplinary action under the Equine Drugs & Medications Penalty Guidelines, please click here.
Initially, the USEF Hearing Committee utilized the newly-approved heightened drug penalty guidelines and handed down a 12-month suspension and fine of $12,000 against Farmer and a 24-month suspension and fine of $24,000 against Glefke. With Navin’s help, Farmer and Glefke petitioned USEF for a rehearing, claiming they had not been properly notified of the violation and subsequent hearing, and were ultimately granted their request. Please click here for more detailed information as well as a quote from USEF President Murray Kessler.
Though granted a rehearing, Navin expressed the difficulties that came afterwards, as she alleges that USEF would not allow Glefke and Farmer’s legal team access to pertinent documents regarding the case.
“Everything we asked for, for the most part, we were told no,” explained Navin. “We can’t very well defend the case if we can’t get the documents that are sitting inside USEF’s four walls. We were constantly denied. We had motions put forth before the Hearing Committee, and every single time we asked they said, ‘No.’ ”
Ultimately, according to Navin, she and her team lost the rehearing due to numerous factors, including the USEF Hearing Committee refusing to allow laboratory technicians who handled Unexpected’s blood samples to testify. The sentences imposed upon Glefke and Farmer were upheld, but their team of lawyers instigated the arbitration process in an attempt to bring the dispute before an unaffiliated third party. This motion was further fueled by tips made available to Glefke and Farmer’s legal team attesting to the fact that the USEF lab technicians mishandled the horse’s blood samples. According to Navin, when she addressed USEF regarding the matter, she was told that the case had been closed and nothing more was owed to her or her clients. This interaction led way to the team’s in-depth investigation into the blood handling and drug testing processes implemented by USEF.
A self-proclaimed non-equestrian, Regensdorf took center stage next to tackle the findings of the legal team regarding the improper handling of Unexpected’s two blood samples taken in July 2016. Regensdorf was added to the legal team at Navin’s request after losing the rehearing.
“I have two reasons why I wanted to come here today. I don’t like it when my clients get kicked, especially when there was no reason for them to have been kicked. As I got more into the case, I determined that’s exactly what happened,” said Regensdorf. “They weren’t the cheaters, and I want to stop people from calling them that.”
For approximately an hour, Regensdorf outlined the technical inconsistencies discovered by the legal team regarding the entire drug testing process not only pertaining to Unexpected’s vials of blood, but allegedly numerous drug charge cases within USEF’s scope over the past handful of years. While Regensdorf claims that mistakes were made specific to this case, he also notes that the backbone of USEF’s drug testing process and laboratory procedures are substandard due to a variety of factors.
“We had the perfect storm of events that we were able to utilize to show the weaknesses in the system, to show the problems that USEF has been having and the difficulties in their lab. From USEF’s perspective, this was just an isolated incident. This wasn’t an isolated incident; this was a broad range of problems,” attested Regensdorf. “If USEF doesn’t change its approach and its culture of these drug investigations and drug prosecutions, you folks are going to be fighting these battles from now on. USEF needs to change how they think about these cases.”
To understand his claims, Regensdorf outlined what he dubbed the “complete laboratory catastrophe” that took place in mid-March 2017 at the USEF laboratory, which Regensdorf alleges was hidden from public record. The tests on blood sample A and blood sample B — vials taken from Unexpected at the same time — did not “substantially confirm” the initial findings that GABA was present at an unallowed level. Sample A was first returned with a GABA level of 300, whereas the later-tested B sample, run twice in March 2017, returned levels of 2400 and 1800, which clearly did not replicate the original levels. Since the results could not be replicated, the test was not scientifically reliable.
Why didn’t the tests line up, and why were Glefke and Farmer charged? Ultimately, Regensdorf’s claims boiled down to a number of generalizations:
- The “green tiger top” tubes used to collect Unexpected’s blood at the July 2016 horse show were improperly handled multiple times against the manufacturer warning. According to the manufacturer, the tubes are not meant to be frozen and should be centrifuged within two to four hours of collection, and only centrifuged once. The tubes used by USEF were not centrifuged within the appropriate timeframe, were frozen and centrifuged more than once leading to incorrect test results. Due to the fact that red blood cells are believed to contain high natural doses of GABA, the red blood cells and the plasma within the blood are supposed to be separated, and only the plasma should be tested for the substance. Multiple mishandling instances led to contamination of the plasma, leading to inaccurate test results.
- The USEF lab was running quantitative tests, when it was only equipped to run qualitative tests and was not certified or qualified to run tests to account for GABA amounts present.
- The lab is owned by USEF and the Hearing Committee is comprised of USEF representatives, not an unbiased panel. This leads to a credibility concern as USEF is responsible for all decisions regarding a case even when they are an involved party.
- Improper documentation by the USEF technicians and laboratory executives. Lab mistakes and inconsistencies were not noted in any case files or lab notes, and tests were run that were not disclosed. A lack of regulations and training for technicians and veterinarians resulted in incorrect handling of the samples.
Adding insult to injury, Regensdorf further claimed that USEF admitted to the mishandling of 40–50 other drug charge cases, but none of the instances were ever reported. Navin went on to claim that a USEF representative testified to “running bad blood all the time.”
Outside of the drug testing process, Regensdorf brought up further qualms with USEF regarding the cost of prosecuting the case with money that came from the pockets of dues-paying members.
“How much money was spent by USEF prosecuting Larry and Kelley? They hired the best lawyers [from all over the country]. We didn’t win this case because we outspent them, we won the case because we should have,” noted Regensdorf.
At the conclusion of the entire legal battle in January 2018, USEF announced that it had resolved the litigation with Farmer and Glefke for the alleged July 2016 GABA violation. With so much controversial evidence and the introduction of doubt, the entire proceeding from the outset was voided and all penalties and suspensions were vacated, thereby restoring Farmer and Glefke to active membership effective July 1. For more information on the conclusion of the case, please click here.
Given their findings, Glefke and Farmer’s legal team advises that, going forward, all competitors whose horses are drug tested should record the entire process on video, focusing on the veterinarian’s or technician’s hands that are pulling the blood and securing it. For the time being, blood samples are still going through the same pipeline, a concern raised by the audience during the meeting. Although changes are being made within the organization, the legal team attests that much more needs to be done moving forward. When asked by audience members how to combat the possible mishandling of their horses’ blood samples and protect themselves, Navin gave a succinct response: “Their sandbox, their rules.”