Farm Progress

Nalaney Guyer’s 2016 Grand Champion Barrow was disqualified by Illinois State Fair officials because a urine test revealed use of diphenhydramine, found in anti-itch cream.

Holly Spangler, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

January 13, 2017

6 Min Read
BIG HUGS: Nalaney Guyer, 13, and her mom, Lucy, embrace following her Grand Champion Barrow win, as her dad, Dave, looks on.

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories about the drug testing procedures at the Illinois State Fair. Part 1 covered Adam Miller’s experience as a nearly-disqualified champion; Part 2 shared recommendations from the Livestock Working Group and the ISF Advisory Board.

Nalaney Guyer’s moment of elation felt good. She hugged her parents, got a high five from the governor and carried off an enormous trophy to celebrate her 2016 Illinois State Fair Grand Champion Barrow.

But she, too, got a letter of disqualification from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, just hours before the Sale of Champions. In a urine test following the show, her barrow tested positive for both flunixin (banamine) and diphenhydramine (an antihistamine found in products like Benadryl).

Her parents, Dave and Lucy Guyer, attended the hearing at the Illinois Department of Agriculture, held 25 minutes after they received notification of the disqualification at 1:15 p.m. Aug. 16. The Sale of Champions was scheduled for 4 p.m.

“I thought we’d walk up there, sit down with somebody and get this figured out,” Dave Guyer says. “I never had one inkling we’d still be talking about this today.”

Swearing in
Guyer says during the hearing, they were sworn in by a judge, who asked the state to present their case. The state presented their side; then Guyer says the judge told him they could present their case.

“I said, ‘Present my case? I don’t even know what diphenhydramine is!’” he recalled.

Guyer was allowed to ask questions and learned that diphenhydramine is an antihistamine. The Guyers told the judge they had no idea where that came from, but said the barrow had suffered from a severe rash on its chest, and they’d used Desitin on it since July 21. Desitin, a cream to treat diaper rash, does not contain diphenhydramine. The Guyers said they did give the barrow flunixin — or banamine — on July 8 and documented it with both their veterinarian and Ray Hankes, IDOA Division of Food Safety and Animal Protection manager. Flunixin is an FDA-approved drug in market hogs and has a 12-day withdrawal period in hogs, and can show up in trace tests — like the state fair’s urine test — for up to 28 days or longer.

Guyer says they were asked to leave the room while the judge and IDOA officials conferred. When the judge emerged, he said the banamine was given under veterinary care and obviously did not give a competitive advantage, and the department was dismissing the banamine charge.

But the diphenhydramine charge would stand, because it was a non-approved FDA drug in violation of state fair rules. Nalaney and her grand champion barrow were disqualified from the Illinois State Fair, and she was barred from exhibiting for the next three years — until she’s 17.

IDOA has refused to comment on the Guyer case, citing pending litigation.


HIGH FIVE: Gov. Bruce Rauner gives Nalaney Guyer a high five after her win. According to Illinois State Fair Premium Book rules, Guyer’s disqualification in 2016 means she cannot compete again at the ISF for three years.

The Guyers had to return to the barn and tell Nalaney and her sister, Ashtin. Guyer still tears up at the recollection: “That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Back home in Crawford County, the Guyers went through every medication in the barn. Before long, Lucy called out: “I’ve found it.”

A finger-sized tube of Dollar General-brand anti-itch cream contained diphenhydramine. Lucy had applied the last half of the tube on the barrow back on July 21, under the advice of their veterinarian, when the rash first appeared. Since the tube was empty, she switched to Desitin and used it until the state fair.

Approved vs. prohibited
Ron Baynes works with the USDA-funded project called the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD) at North Carolina State University, which exists to provide drug residue information to farmers and veterinarians.

“The substance [diphenhydramine] is not prohibited by FDA, but it is not approved. Those are two different things,” he says, explaining that while the drug is not prohibited for use in food animals, a particular show could prohibit its use, depending on their rules. Craig Sondgeroth, IDOA general counsel, says the Illinois State Fair does not have a specific list of approved or prohibited drugs.  

Further, Baynes says FDA prefers that livestock producers use approved-label medications first. If that medication doesn’t work or the medication isn’t available, they can go off label under veterinarian guidance — as Guyer says his family did, when their veterinarian suggested using the anti-itch cream. “If the animal is going to slaughter, the veterinarian needs to give an estimated and very conservative withdrawal time,” Baynes adds.

“My vet said FARAD said seven days was more than ample time. We used it on July 25,” Guyer says.

The entire situation is perplexing to Baynes, who says urine samples can hold residues longer than other samples.

“Intuitively, I don’t know how that test came out positive,” he says. “There was probably some cross contamination. If it was administered as an anti-itch cream, that’s very, very weird that it would come back positive.”

What’s next?
The Guyers had 30 days to appeal IDOA’s decision to disqualify Nalaney on the diphenhydramine charge, and did so. Guyer understood that IDOA had 90 days to respond, which ended Dec. 16. In communication with Guyer’s lawyer the following week, IDOA indicated they didn’t have to comply with the deadline. Guyer’s lawyer was also copied on an internal IDOA memo during the week of Dec. 12 asking Director Raymond Poe to reconsider the banamine charge. Guyer and his lawyer reminded IDOA that during the state fair hearing, the judge declared there was no violation and dismissed the banamine charge. As of press time, IDOA has not responded to Guyer or his lawyer, and refused interview requests from Prairie Farmer.

Paul Walker, an Illinois Livestock Working Group member and professor emeritus at Illinois State University, says there are a couple of take-home messages from the Guyer case. "One, the current rules are ambiguous. And two, under the current rules, exhibitors are very limited regarding what can be used to treat animals intended for exhibition at the Illinois State Fair. If the ISF/IDOA adopts the Livestock Group's soon-to-be-released recommendations for premium book rules, the rules will be practical and should help ensure food safety and animal welfare."

For his part, Guyer says they did everything they could to provide for the well-being of their animal, while following both the health requirement and ethical care sections of the premium book. He would like to see his daughter reinstated.

“I would love for them to say Nalaney is reinstated. I don’t think she needs to sit out, period. We didn’t do anything wrong.”





About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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