Ben and Maggie Weinroth clear their names after Colorado State Fair goat-doping allegations
Sue Weinroth describes it best: "This goat story got legs and ran," says the mom, shaking her head. Last summer, she watched her two children, nineteen-year-old Maggie and fourteen-year-old Ben, lose their titles, reputations and hobbies when they were banned from the Colorado State Fair on allegations that they drugged their prize goats. But this morning comes with a different summary: "We're back, and everything is great."
After a day spent in mediation, the Weinroth family and their representation at the Animal Law Center came to an agreement with the Colorado State Fair yesterday evening. As of today, the Weinroth teens have been reinstated to the competitive ranks -- a development that clears their names and prompts Ben to grin. This weekend, he will begin the search for three new goats with which to compete and, if he's lucky, win another round at next year's state fair.
As for Maggie, she's aged out of the competition. With that in mind, "I definitely have big shoes to fill," Ben says, who jokes that "I have to start winning all the shows."
Sue, Maggie (on Skype) and Ben Weinroth celebrate their newly cleared reputation.
Although their struggle to reach this point has lasted several months, the family remains confused about how it all began. Last summer, Maggie and Ben spent roughly eight hours a day raising the animals they eventually took to the 2011 Colorado State Fair, where Maggie's goat Theodore won the Grand Champion award and Ben's own entry earned the Champion Lightweight Goat title. But their excitement was soon mired in controversy: When Ben's goat was selected for a random drug test, it tested positive for ractopamine, a drug commonly used in hogs but strictly off limits in goats.
When Theodore was later tested, he also showed evidence of ractopamine. The fair disqualified both animals and their owners, stripping them of their titles and roughly $7,000 in prize money and banning them from further competition. Although reports of the incident began in the Pueblo Chieftain, they soon spread, earning mention on the front page of AOL, on the BBC and in countries such as Pakistan and New Zealand.
"Animal science is a very person-based industry," says Magggie, a CSU sophomore majoring in that subject and minoring in agricultureal resource economics. This morning, she Skyped in from her study abroad home of New Zealand to celebrate the news with her brother and the press. "Everybody knows everybody, and when the news came out that I had been untruthful, it was devestating."
This morning, when she Googled herself (as she has become accustomed to doing regularly), the first thing Maggie found was a mention of her reinstatement.
The family launched its attempt to restablish its reputation in October by appealing to the board of the Colorado State Fair. Before their animals tested positive, the Weinroths noticed suspicious signs inside their holding area. The goats' food, which Maggie and Ben placed in one specific area, had been moved, and they found a strange substance inside the pen. Later, they called a vet twice within 24 hours to treat their animals, which had become sick. To this day, they still don't know what happened, though sabotage is on the table. "I can't say for sure," Sue says.
Although Maggie, two days from her twentieth birthday, is too old to compete in the next fair, the decision to overturn their ban directly affects both siblings. When she returns from New Zealand, Maggie plans to take up her spot on Colorado State University's 2012 meat judging team, while Ben expects to renew his family's legacy in a return to the fair this summer. (Both siblings hold multiple titles in the world of animal competition.) The two to three goats he purchases this weekend will take up roughly one third of his life until August.
"I'm so excited this is behind us and our family," Maggie says, insisting that the state fair played a helpful role in settling the issue. "It's really encouraging that the wrong has been set right." Her brother echoed that sentiment, saying, "For the last few months, I've been accused of something I did not do."
In the months immediately following the ban, family members worried they might have to take the issue to court; both the Weinroths and their lawyers are relieved that step proved unnecessary.
"The biggest thing is just for them to be reinstated, for their reputation to be set right," says the family's attorney, Animal Law Center founder Jennifer Edwards. "That is huge in this community, and it can't be ignored. It's not all the time as a laywer that you feel great about the results of your work, but I'm really happy with the way we and the state fair were able to fix this."
More from our News archive: "Maggie and Ben Weinroth, accused of drugging championship goats, fight to clear their name."