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After controversial suspension, Jeff Blea is back as CHRB equine medical director

John Cherwa, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Horse Racing

LOS ANGELES — Dr. Jeff Blea has had a lot of time to try to understand what has happened to him during the past year while taking his daily four- to six-mile walks around the Rose Bowl, listening mostly to Eric Church, Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp.

"They tell stories about life," Blea said. "Everybody goes through things in life and the goal is to come out better."

Blea is hoping those song lyrics will reflect his reality when he returns to work Wednesday as equine medical director (EMD) of the California Horse Racing Board after negotiating a settlement with the California Veterinary Medical Board (VMB). Blea has been on paid administrative leave since Jan. 11 after the VMB suspended his license accusing him of multiple violations, many of which were nothing more than bookkeeping errors when he was in private practice.

Blea will be on probation for three years, have to go to continuing education in regard to record keeping and pay the VMB $131,464 over a 30-month period as reimbursement for the cost of their investigation. As the EMD, Blea has moved from the world of practicing veterinarian to regulatory veterinarian, meaning he no longer see horses as clients.

He technically works for UC Davis, from which the CHRB contracts his services.

Blea's case has been baffling to most in the California horse racing community, given that the infractions he is accused of rarely result in a suspended license. Additionally, the CHRB and VMB are under the same government umbrella of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, but the CHRB was never notified of alleged infractions by their chief equine medical officer during the investigation.

 

"The fact that the vet board went for a suspension of license was unheard of," Blea said. "There is obviously an agenda there. If I hadn't been EMD, I would not have been suspended."

There are six other Southern California veterinarians and three in Northern California that have accusations against them but none had their license suspended.

Blea has suspicions about why he believes he was targeted but, for now, isn't willing to name names or discuss motives.

The VMB, in response to The Los Angeles Times, acknowledged through a spokesperson that Blea has "a stipulated settlement and authorizes Dr. Blea to practice medicine under a three-year probationary period with various terms and conditions." It did not add any other information about any of the charges, conditions or terms.

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