Officials use wide net | Several suspended from Stampede Park after positive drug test results
The Calgary Stampede has given one-year suspensions to anyone involved in handling the winning steer disqualified from its Steer Classic this summer because of drug use.
Under suspension are: the steer’s owners, Royden Anderson of Didsbury, Alta., and Riley Chalack of Carstairs, Alta.; cattle fitters Raymond Gonnet and Chris Wilson of Iowa; and Trausch Farms of Carroll, Iowa, where the fitters work.
“This letter serves to inform you that as a result of your involvement with disqualified steer CS#377 from the 2013 Calgary Stampede Steer Classic, you have been placed on a one year suspension from entering, showing, competing, being affiliated with or being associated with any animal at Stampede Park,” wrote Max Fritz, the Stampede’s director of agriculture.
Anderson said it seems like the Stampede is taking the “shotgun approach” to sanctions, hoping to hit the right person.
“For me, the Stampede has dragged a lot of innocent people in this and have not respected the agricultural or scientific community by grasping to fit facts to justify their position,” said Anderson.
“They have caused a lot of damage and emotional strain on people involved.”
Blood samples were taken from the reserve and grand champion steer after the Calgary Stampede steer show in July and sent to a lab specializing in horse drug testing. The steer tested positive for small amounts of the approved drugs flunixin and ibuprofen.
Anderson said the owners originally thought they had given the steer Banamine, the trade name for flunixin, for a lingering foot injury, after receiving approval from the Stampede veterinarians for its use. However, they later realized that while they had asked for permission, no drugs were given during the rush of the show.
Dr. Patricia Dowling, professor of clinical pharmacology at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and an expert in drug testing, said the Stampede’s tests have no scientific validity and the amount of drug found is the equivalent to a “whiff.”
Stampede officials said they have a zero tolerance level and upheld the disqualification after appeal.
Robert Trausch, owner of Trausch Farms, said he doesn’t know why his farm was named in the suspension. The farm wasn’t part of any ownership of the calf and didn’t have any connection with the disqualified steer.
Trausch said the suspension would affect future cattle sales to Canada.
“That’s going to cause damage for us, selling cattle and semen in Canada. It’s going to kill any sales we got going up to Canada and it’s going to have a negative effect,” said Trausch, who believes his farm became tangled in the net of steer show politics and bad blood.
Gonnet said he was shocked to receive a phone call from a Calgary Stampede staff member, who read his suspension letter over the phone.
“How can I get a suspension when it’s the first time anyone has been in contact with me?” asked Gonnet.He travelled from the U.S. to Canada to fit cattle during the Stampede.
“I fit the cattle’s legs. That’s what I do. That’s my job,” he said.
“I asked, ‘is the calf being disqualified for illegal drug use or illegal fitting. Why am I being disqualified?’ ”
He also worries the sanction will create problems for his Canadian show calf customers, who have already bought cattle and semen for upcoming Canadian shows.
“That’s taken a whole other year of business away from me.”
Wilson said he doesn’t know why he was sanctioned by the Stampede.
“I was just up there taking in the show and fitting cattle,” said Wilson, who helped fit the winning steer.
Wilson said he has taught 1,600 children across the U.S. and Canada how to fit, show and feed cattle to win shows.
“It sounds like there is quite a witch hunt up there. I was just up there helping fit a steer.”
The suspension is from Aug. 2, 2013, to Aug. 2, 2014.
Anderson said he is unsure if he and Chalack want to pursue the disqualification and sanctions further.
“This very well could have started a bigger fight than they anticipated, when clearly the steer and people involved were innocent and proven to be innocent.”