The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission will begin testing Thoroughbred race horses for total carbon dioxide, or TCO2, after approving a policy to conduct the testing at its June 17 meeting.
The commission first voted to implement TCO2 testing during its March meeting. Since that time, commission staff worked to develop the policy, which strictly prohibits the use of agents or substances that elevate a horse’s TCO2 level beyond what is naturally present.
TCO2 in horses is believed to have a performance-enhancing quality by limiting muscle fatigue and increasing endurance. Testing for elevated TCO2 levels in horses will take place at the Pennsylvania Equine Toxicology and Research Lab at West Chester University.
Horses may be tested at random, with probable cause, or at the discretion of race track stewards or the Horse Racing Commission. Penalties for samples that test positive may include a $1,500 fine, a 30- to 60-day suspension, and loss of purse for a first offense.
The racing commission partners with the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center on research matters, given its outstanding reputation for developing and executing tests to detect performance-enhancing substances in horses.
Recent breakthroughs include developing tests for the blood-doping agent Erythropoietin, or EPO, and anabolic steroids. Pennsylvania was also the first state to impose restrictions on the use of intra-articular corticosteroids, which are very potent anti-inflammatory agents.