Illinois Clamps Down on Equine 'Milkshakes'

The Illinois Racing Board has amended its medication rules to drastically increase the penalties for a positive "milkshake" test and also bans any type of hypodermic injection of a horse 24 hours before a scheduled start.

Milkshakes, which are commonly a combination of bicarbonate and other substances believed to affect a horse's performance, are tested through measuring a horse's carbon dioxide level.

Beginning March 1, if carbon dioxide levels exceed 39 millimoles per liter for a horse competing on furosemide, or 37 millimoles per liter if a horse is not using furosemide, the trainer of record will be fined $2,000 and suspended for at least 60 days. Any purse earnings would also be redistributed.

Additionally, the horse will be subject to "early detention" for a period identical to the trainer's suspension. Early detention is defined as a "pre-race guarded quarantine" for no less than six hours prior to the scheduled post time for the first race.

For a second offense a trainer is subject to a $5,000 fine and 180-day suspension; a third offense within five years will result in a $5,000 fine and two-year suspension.

If an owner or trainer contends such carbon dioxide levels are physiologically normal for a horse that tests positive, a written request can be made to hold the horse in quarantine. The horse will be re-tested periodically and if the claim proves to be accurate there will be no penalty.

The language regulating hypodermic injection has also been altered. Previously, the rule only banned foreign substances from being injected into a horse 24-hours prior to its scheduled start. Now, no injection of any kind can be made during that time frame.