The Los Angeles Times reported Jan. 12 that Dr. Jeff Blea, equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board, has been placed on administrative leave by the University of California-Davis amid continued grappling over his veterinary license. Blea is employed by the university but loaned to the racing commission — an arrangement that is common amongst other equine medical directors who are hired in partnership between local state universities and commissions.
The Times also reported that Blea had not been performing his duties as equine medical director since last week, because state attorneys were informed that contrary to their initial interpretation of California law, the position does require an active veterinary license. Previously, the CHRB had announced its intention to leave Blea in the role because it believed an active license was not required.
Blea’s veterinary license was suspended at an emergency meeting held on Christmas Eve. He has not been operating his racetrack practice since taking the job of equine medical director last summer.
It is expected that UC-Davis staff members will share Blea’s duties until the situation becomes more clear. The next hearing in Blea’s license case is Jan. 21.
Blea had already been removed from his role overseeing the investigation into the death of Bob Baffert-trained Medina Spirit, who dropped suddenly after completing a workout at Santa Anita. The equine medical director is not responsible for actually performing necropsies or testing biological samples on horses who die in racing or training in California or elsewhere. Those responsibilities go to veterinary pathologists and toxicologists — in California, those duties are contracted to UC-Davis, though some samples have been shipped outside California in this particular case. The equine medical director would be responsible for gathering reports and interpreting them for presentation to the board and to the public.
Many in the veterinary community have been critical of the California Veterinary Medical Board’s handling of Blea’s case, which they say must have political motivations. Most of the violations alleged against Blea focus on record-keeping regarding examinations and prescriptions. Two other veterinarians who had similar charges brought against them at the same time as Blea have not had their licenses suspended and do not yet have hearings scheduled.
Read more at the Los Angeles Times
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