Bobby Zen

Southern California-based trainer Milton Pineda has been banned for 15 years and ordered to pay a total of $195,000 in fines and legal fees after an arbitration panel found him guilty of seven rule violations under the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Unit (HIWU)’s Anti-Doping and Medication Control (AMDC) program, according to a final decision dated Mar. 12.

Between June 2 and July 4 last year, seven different Pineda-trainees tested positive for Diisopropylamine—a banned substance under the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA)—after running at Santa Anita and Los Alamitos. During that period, the Pineda-trained Bella Renella (Clubhouse Ride) ran and won twice at Santa Anita.

The ruling followed a full in-person evidentiary hearing at the JAMS Resolution Center in Irvine, California, on Feb. 27, presided over by arbitrator Nancy Holtz.

“One of the arguments that I made but that I believe in is that the punishment should fit the violation or the crime. But in this case, there is no connection between the conduct or the alleged conduct of Mr. Pineda and the 15 years and the nearly $200,000 in fines,” said attorney Darrell Vienna, who represented Pineda.

“This is just another example of the overreach and the unfairness of HISA and HIWU,” said Vienna, adding that he was unsure whether Pineda would appeal the decision.

Holtz’s ruling is by far the harshest penalty meted out since the federal ADMC program went into effect last May.

HIWU classifies Diisopropylamine (DIPA) as a vasodilator, which is a substance that dilates the blood vessels to allow blood to flow more freely through them. Diisopropylamine is also found in several everyday items like tobacco and beauty products, and hand sanitizer.

Indeed, according to the final ruling, Pineda argued that he had “never knowingly or intentionally administered DIPA to his horses,” and that the positive tests likely resulted from the use of certain feed supplements, or cross-contamination through the use of hand sanitizers by official testing barn personnel at Santa Anita Park or Los Alamitos.

Among other claims, Pineda argued that the chain of custody of certain samples “was not done in a way to preserve the integrity of the samples,” and that the testing conducted on one of Bella Renella’s B-Samples “was not properly conducted” either, according to the final ruling.

Holtz dismissed these arguments.

“Mr. Pineda has failed to establish no fault or negligence or no significant fault or negligence,” the ruling states, arguing that Pineda failed to prove that the “source was contamination of feed supplements,” and that “there is unrefuted evidence that the hand sanitizer at the test barn of Santa Anita Park and Los Alamitos was not used” by the official personnel.

Holtz also found that Pineda’s challenges to the proper chain of custody of the samples failed “at the first step, as he has not established any departure from the Laboratory Standards,” and that questions surrounding the validity of Bella Renella’s B-Sample analysis is moot due to the positive findings of the other samples.

A maximum first anti-doping rules violation under HISA for a Diisopropylamine positive is two years. Holtz determined that the seven separate rules violations came to 14 years to be served consecutively.

On the back of his provisional suspension, Pineda transferred care of his horses to trainer Salvador Naranjo, who in turn hired Filberto Alvarado, a former employee and groom of Pineda.

Holtz’s rulings finds Pineda guilty of “program training” in breach of his provisional suspension, for which HIWU sought an additional one year ban and $5,000 fine for aggravating circumstances.

“There is evidence that Mr. Pineda has flagrantly disregarded the ADMC Program by breaching his Provisional Suspension and prior Ineligibility, and also exhibited deceptive or obstructive conduct by refusing to allow HIWU investigators to search his phone,” the rulings states.

“Throughout his Provisional Suspension (September 15, 20, 22, 26 and October 19), Mr. Pineda was seen on multiple occasions attending at Los Alamitos watching his Covered Horses train and meeting with both Mr. Naranjo and Mr. Alvarado,” the ruling states.

According to the final ruling, Pineda admitted that he went to the track regularly, “but not to ‘program train’ (i.e. not to provide instructions to Mr. Naranjo or Alvarado on how to train his former horses), but rather only to pass the time.”

Aside from Bella Renella, the other six Pineda trainees who tested positive for Diisopropylamine were Flatterwithjewels (Flatter), Big Splash (Mr. Big), Chollima (Paddy O’Prado), Catbernay (Sapphire Cat), Keep Your Coil (Coil) and Wegonahavagoodtime (Big Bad Leroybrown).

These trainees all won the respective races for which they subsequently tested positive, except Flatterwithjewels, who finished second at Santa Anita on June 9 last year.

Holtz fined Pineda $180,000 and ordered him to pay $15,000 towards HIWU’s share of the arbitration costs of the proceedings. His 15-year suspension began Mar. 12.

Pineda has worked in the racing industry as a groom, exercise rider, pony rider, assistant trainer, and trainer for most of his life, the ruling states. According to Equibase, Pineda has been training since 2019, winning 49 races from 333 runners.

The post Milton Pineda Banned 15 Years, Fined $195,000 appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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