New York EPO Testing: Zero Positives in First Week

The first week of testing for erythropoietin (EPO) antibodies in New York, which began Nov. 1, produced zero positive results, a spokesperson for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board said Wednesday.

Racing has been conducted at seven tracks in New York since EPO screening began at the start of the month. These include two Thoroughbred tracks -- Aqueduct and Finger Lakes -- and five Standardbred tracks -- Vernon Downs, Monticello, Yonkers, Saratoga Harness, and Batavia Downs.

In New York, urine samples are taken from the first and second-place finishers in all races and all horses that have been claimed. Additional horses can be tested after a race at the stewards' discretion.

Though screening for EPO antibodies is done on an experimental basis in other states, New York is the first to enact penalties if EPO antibodies are discovered. Horses found with EPO antibodies in New York are banned from racing again until their systems are deemed clear of the substance.

Trainers will not be targeted for positive EPO tests because there is no definitive way to determine when the antibodies were administered. Theoretically, a horse could have changed stables several times before the EPO antibodies are discovered.

New York's EPO test was put together by Dr. George Maylin of Cornell University, who is the racing board's equine drug-testing director, and Dr. Ken McKeever of Rutgers University, who sits on the board's medication advisory panel. New York officials devised testing plans with regulators in Ontario, Canada, where EPO testing also began Nov. 1.

EPO, which was first used in track and field, helps a body produce more red blood cells, which it is believed increases the flow of oxygen through the bloodstream and therefore performance. However, the medical community has found EPO's side effects on horses can be deadly.