Wong Provisionally Suspended After B Sample Confirmation

Jonathan Wong | Benoit

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Trainer Jonathan Wong has been provisionally suspended after being alerted late Wednesday that the B Sample confirmed the presence of Metformin in a post-race test taken from his trainee, Heaven and Earth (Gormley).

Heaven and Earth broke her maiden at Indiana Grand June 1 but subsequently tested positive for the prescription drug Metformin, a type 2 diabetes treatment classified as a banned substance by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA).

During a conference call Thursday morning before representatives from the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit (HIWU) and a judge, a full hearing on the merits of the case was scheduled for Sept. 25, said Wong.

“There's zero sense of urgency,” said Wong. “I've been put out of work since July 2 because they hadn't adjusted the rules until 27 days later. But by then, I've lost my horses. I haven't made a paycheck for a month. And now it's going to be going on three months.”

Technically, this is the second time Wong has been provisionally suspended as the case has unfolded.

As a matter of protocol at that time, HIWU initially provisionally suspended Wong at the beginning of June when the A sample returned a positive finding for Metformin.

Late last month, the HISA Authority announced that it had modified the rules surrounding provisional suspensions. Under the new provisions, responsible parties who request B Sample confirmation following a positive test for a banned substance won't face any potential provisional suspension until the B sample findings are returned.

“If the B Sample confirms the A Sample, the Responsible Person shall be Provisionally Suspended upon Notification of the B Sample confirmation,” the new rules state.

Though that announcement technically permitted Wong to return to training while the B sample was being processed, he said that his owners did not wish to transfer the horses back with the B Sample results expected imminently.

“If I would have gotten notified on this positive today, I would still be allowed to train and go on as normal until my B Sample came back,” he said. “But I wasn't afforded that opportunity.”

Wong–who potentially faces up to a two-year suspension and a $25,000 fine–voiced frustration with other aspects of the way his case has been handled. This includes, he said, how the B samples of blood and urine were sent separately for testing.

“They were separated by eight days, which according to everybody I've spoken with is not how it's supposed to be done,” Wong said.

“If this would have happened a few weeks prior, this would have been a 15-day penalty,” said Wong, alluding to how trainer Wesley Ward served a 15-day suspension for a Metformin positive in a July 15, 2022 race at Monmouth. “Now they're threatening me with up to two years.”

As such, Wong said that he's considering his future in the sport, even if the full merits hearing skews in his favor. “I don't know, when all this is taken care of, if I want to go back to training,” Wong said.

“It brings a lot of stuff into perspective,” he said. “I've a wife, a 13-year-old, a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old and a 10-month-old. I miss so much of their life by putting work first and them second, for it all to be literally thrown away in a day over something I didn't even do.”

Despite these frustrations, Wong said that the concept of HISA is necessary for the sport.

“First and foremost, I'd like to give them credit for making the changes [to the provisional suspension provisions]. I applaud them for listening to people's complaints and suggestions, adapting and working to it,” Wong said.

“I totally have zero problems with HISA. I think it's something that's much needed. I just think it needs to be tweaked. It's a learning process. They're learning. Owners, trainers, jockeys, we're all learning as we go along with this,” said Wong.

“But when you're completely not awarded any opportunities from day one until your hearing, that's pretty much being charged as guilty until proven innocent,” Wong added. “I feel like I've been locked up and had the key thrown away.”

 

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