By Tom LaMarra

In an unusual development, Canterbury Park has come to the defense of top trainer McLean Robertson, who was suspended for 90 days and fined $2,000 by the Minnesota Racing Commission for a positive test for a Class 1 methamphetamine.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune earlier reported that Robertson, also the leading trainer at Delaware Park, had his staff drug-tested, and two came back positive for methamphetamines. Robertson is held in high regard at both tracks.

“Canterbury Park supports and funds drug testing as a deterrent to the use of performance-enhancing substances in horse racing,” track officials said in a July 26 statement. “However, Canterbury Park management does not believe Mr. Robertson, an upstanding and respected member of Canterbury Park’s racing program for many years, administered a performance-enhancing or prohibited substance to the horse referenced in this case but is a victim of environmental contamination.

“We realize the board of stewards, under direction of the Minnesota Racing Commission, was in a difficult position in this matter based on zero-tolerance and trainer responsibility rules. The integrity of the sport is of utmost importance, but scientific advances in drug testing have made zero-tolerance rules for contaminants impractical.

“When the stewards’ ruling is appealed to the MRC, we hope they take into consideration the mitigating circumstances in this case.”

The horse in question, Purest Form, won a $7,500 claiming race June 7 as the favorite at Canterbury. The Star-Tribune reported Robertson a few weeks later was told by Canterbury stewards the horse tested positive for methamphetamines.

The test result came back at 74 picograms—trillionths of a gram. Robertson told the newspaper there were a few cases in the Canterbury barn area “where people were found with it.”

Robertson told the Star-Tribune he acquired the horse from another trainer and had the 6-year-old Purim gelding drug tested before he took over training. The horse, he said, tested clean.