California Vet Blea's License Suspended on Interim Basis

Dr. Jeff Blea | AAEP

The California Veterinary Medical Board has filed an interim suspension order against the license of Jeff Blea, the UC Davis Equine Medical Director who advises the California Horse Racing Board on matters relating to equine health and welfare. The order reads, “The allegations include prescribing, dispensing, and/or administering thyroxine and other drugs to racehorses without establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR), without performing an examination, without forming a diagnosis, and without medical necessity.”

According to John Cherwa at the Los Angeles Times, an emergency hearing was held Dec. 24, and Administrative Law Judge Nana Chin signed the temporary suspension order.

The petitioner for the order was Jessica Sieferman, the Executive Officer of the California Veterinary Medical Board, and was filed by Rob Bonta, the Attorney General of California. They write in her petition that “the Board is investigating licensed veterinarians who have prescribed, dispensed, or administered drugs to racehorses, and the medical necessity of such drugs.”

The filing suggests that as a practicing veterinarian, Blea has a vested interest in the findings of the Medina Spirit necropsy, and that suspending his license will “prevent the appearance of impropriety,” while failing to clearly connect the dots as to why Blea specifically would have a vested interest simply by virtue of being a veterinarian or in his administrative roles.

It reads, “Because Respondent Blea is alleged to have administered dangerous and medically unnecessary drugs to numerous racehorses, it stands to reason that he approves of such practice by other veterinarians. Any necropsy and investigation results identifying any racehorse's cause of death as drug-related would be detrimental to Respondent Blea, his career, and his livelihood. With the Board's allegations pending, there exists a clear conflict of interest with Respondent Blea's continued involvement in the drug testing program and investigations. The requested interim suspension order will prevent the appearance of impropriety and any possible undue influence by Respondent Blea. The Medina Spirit investigation is currently underway. An impartial, complete and transparent investigation without undue influence and the appearance of impropriety is necessary to determine the root cause of Medina Spirit's death so that remedial action can be taken to prevent additional equine deaths.”

The filing goes on to say that Blea treated six horses with “dangerous drugs” without showing that he completed a “proper physical examination. A proper physical examination would consist of a documented general organ-system examination and may consist of more detailed and focused examinations of particular areas of interest.” It says that Blea “administered at least one of the following dangerous drugs…Thyro-L, Lasix, acepromazine, Adequan, phenylbutazone, methocarbamol, glycopyrrolate, trichlomethiazide/dexamethasone, Dormosedan, and Torbugesic.”

“Respondent Blea is alleged to have committed medication violations on racehorses and is part of the team that oversees the UC Davis drug testing program and investigates medication violations. The appearance of the impropriety alone erodes public trust. The mission of the Board is to protect consumers and animals. Adequate protection of racehorses requires learning the true causes of their sudden deaths so proper remedial action can be taken. That can only happen with impartial, complete and transparent investigations. Petitioner requests the Court to grant the interim suspension order suspending Respondent Blea's license,” the report concludes.

Blea is a respected veteran of the veterinary medical field, both in California and nationally. Aside from decades of equine practice, during which time he has been associated with some of the most well-regarded horsemen in the business, like Richard Mandella, Blea is also a former chair of the American Association of Equine Practitioners' Racing Committee. He also sits on the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act's Anti-Doping and Medication Control Standing Committee.

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