After testing 163 bucking bulls for anabolic steroids on July 29 in Thackerville, Okla., officials with Professional Bull Riders, Inc. felt fairly confident there would be no positive results.
For more than 10 hours, stock contractors with American Bucking Bulls, Inc. delivered the animal athletes to a barn in Thackerville where PBR General Counsel Matthew Rivela and Dr. Gary Warner, DVM, drew blood from some of the world's foremost bucking bulls scheduled to take part in the PBR's Built Ford Tough Series.
ABBI stock contractors had been warned to not bring their bulls to the event if there was any possibility steroids were in their systems.
They were informed about the planned testing during a conference call with PBR and ABBI officials several weeks prior to the event and received letters outlining the plan.
Less than one week after the blood samples were taken, results showed that one bull tested positive. While PBR and ABBI officials declined to release the identity of the bull's owner, sources said it was Paul Daniel of Chico.
When contacted for comment, Daniel admitted that one of his two-year-old bulls, Blu By U, tested positive for Boldenone in Thackerville.
Boldenone is an anabolic steroid developed for veterinarians and used primarily in the treatment of horses.
When PBR and ABBI officials learned there was a positive result, the punishment was swift and harsh.
"There was absolutely no reason for us to come out of Thackerville testing with any positive result for any reason whatsoever," Rivela said. "We provided 62 days advance notice to every stock contractor that we would be testing every single bull that arrived to compete. We also made it clear that any disciplinary sanctions we were forced to hand down as a result of a positive test would be severe."
Daniel was fined $50,000, his membership with ABBI was revoked and he was suspended from competition for two years.
"I can't register or transfer any animal in my account." Daniel said. "My registry is frozen and they know I've got two of the top bulls this year."
Daniel has appealed the ruling and hired an attorney.
"Things are fixing to get bad," Daniel said. "They are trying to throw the book at me and make me take the fall."
Daniel said Boldenone was given to Blu By U on March 26 - before the ABBI had clear rules outlining steroid use.
He said his veterinarian gave Blue By U the steroid to protect the bull's joints and help its muscles recover faster.
Dr. Warner, who has specialized in bucking bulls for more than 30 years, said the steroid is not usually given to healthy animals.
"The steroid is often given to debilitated animals - those that are ravaged by chronic disease or have lost the will to live," Warner said. "It has no analgesic (pain relief) properties and really has little effect on muscle building. It will improve the body's ability to retain the basic protein element. In other words, it should be used on animals that are sick and depressed."
Daniel said he had no idea the steroid was illegal because the ABBI had no clear policy in place, a contention he plans to use if the case goes to court.
Rivela, however, disputes that claim.
"There is no question in my mind that the offending contractor knew his actions were considered cheating by PBR and ABBI," Rivela said. "We clarified and revised the language in the rule books to ensure there was no ambiguity and sent it out to every PBR and ABBI member prior to the testing in Thackerville."
Daniel said he will fight the punishment because it's unfair and questions why a group of breeders he calls "the big boys" were only fined $5,000 when their bulls tested positive for steroids in Pueblo, Colo. in June.
"They kept all of their names quiet, slapped them on the hand and let them compete in the next event," Daniel said. "They are trying to make an example out of me and try to scare everyone else into shape."
Rivela said he is confident in the protocol and science behind the testing policy and stands behind the disciplinary actions.
He also dismisses allegations of a cover up.
"This gossip and sour grapes is better suited for a sewing circle than a professional bull riding arena," Rivela said. "The bottom line is the PBR and ABBI have zero tolerance for cheating."
Dr. Dwight Wolfe, DVM, and Dr. Gary Warner, DVM, participated in a symposium to discuss the steroid controversy with stock contractors at 4C's Arena & Event Center in Stephenville Saturday. Find out what the industry leaders had to say about the issue in next Sunday's edition of the Empire-Tribune.