Delaware Testing for Blood-Doping Antibodies

The racing commissions that govern Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing in Delaware have been testing for erythropoietin antibodies since June 1, and in the future may implement rules to penalize horses that test positive.

In a joint release issued late Nov. 3, the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission and Delaware Harness Racing Commission said they decided to follow New York and Ontario, Canada, in announcing that testing had begun. Because there is no test for EPO or darbopoietin, a related blood-doping agent, regulators use a screening test for the antibodies.

The two commissions adopted rule to prohibit the possession or use of EPO and DPO and other substances for which there are no tests under the Association of Racing Commissioners International "prohibited practices" rule. Bernard Daney, chairman of the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission, said regulators "thought the time was right for us to inform the racing community" testing was under way.

The results of the tests are confidential and subject to investigation, so no further comment can be made, the racing commissions said in the joint statement.

Daney and Beverly Steele, who chairs the Delaware Harness Racing Commission, said horsemen were informed of the policy and that with a rule modification, use of the substances would become a violation. Steele said the antibody testing is being done "to see if there is suspected use" of blood-doping agents.

John Wayne, executive director for both commissions, said state regulators are considering rule changes that would make the presence of EPO or DPO antibodies in a horse a "disqualifying feature that would prevent participation in future events until a negative test is received." The problem for detection is compounded because EPO or DPO can remain in a horse's system 120 days or longer, Wayne said.

Determining when a blood-doping agent was used is a guessing game, especially with horses changing hands via the claim box.

Delaware Park, the lone Thoroughbred track in the state, races from April through mid-November. Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway, the two harness tracks in the state, make for an almost year-round circuit. All three tracks have had video lottery terminals since the mid-1990s.