ORANGE PARK, Fla.- A second trainer of greyhounds had been cited by the state after five dogs in her care tested positive for signs of cocaine in their system at the Bestbet track in Orange Park.
Five dogs trained by Natasha L Nemeth tested positive for positive for Benzoylecgonine (BZE) -- a metabolite of cocaine, according to records First Coast News has obtained from the state.
This comes on the heels of our investigation into trainer Charles McClellan, whose license was suspended by the state in June after 18 positive tests for BZE in 12 dogs at Bestbet.
The first positive test involving Nemeth dates back to October of last year, when a greyhound named WW's Quick Brady tested positive for BZE.
The other positive tests in dogs trained by Nemeth all came in May, according to state records.
One of the five dogs cited for positive drug tests is a greyhound named Flicka. Flicka tested positive after a May 12 race at Bestbet. Nemeth was listed as Flicka's trainer for the May 12 race. However, Flicka also tested positive for the cocaine metabolite six other times, all while under McClellan's training, according to state records.
A dog named WW Green Means Go, trained by Nemeth, tested positive for BZE on May 20, Two more dogs trained by Nemeth, one named Dennis Leary and another named Principal, tested positive on May 22.
Nemeth has a hearings set on the status of her license as a trainer set for September 26.
Both Flicka and Dennis Leary are owned by Steve Sarras, who also owns the other greyhounds that McClellan trained that tested positive.
Sarras defends his trainers and dogs, saying the positive tests were for "trace amounts" of metabolites that can come from "environmental contaminants or from casual contact."
However state rules say a metabolite of cocaine, "regardless of the concentration level, determined to be in the race-day specimen of a greyhound, is strictly prohibited."
As of Thursday morning, Bestbet told First Coast News that they no longer contract with Sarras Kennels.
Bestbet also told us there have not been officially notified of the violations involving Nemeth. Only the June 9 notice involving McClellan's license suspension.
The state is not required to notify the track of positive test results in greyhounds.
While McClellan's license has been suspended pending an August hearing, Nemeth was still listed as a trainer on the racing program at Bestbet as recently as July 9, a month after she was cited for the drug violations.
Bestbet has told First Coast News that they have a "zero tolerance" policy for any trainer or staff member that puts a dog's health in jeopardy, but emphasizes that their trainers are independent contractors and not employees of the track.
Dog racing opponent Carey Theil of GREY2K USA says that’s no excuse. "The track is saying there’s a zero tolerance policy. In light of these new developments is hard to swallow. There were plenty of warning signs. This isn’t one case. It’s not 5 cases. It’s 23 cases.”
First Coast News has not been able to reach Nemeth for comment on this story. McClellan declined our earlier request for an interview.