New York to Test for EPO Antibodies Beginning Nov. 1

New York regulators Oct. 21 gave final approval to a new rule authorizing the testing of post-race samples for performance-enhancing erythropoetin antibodies. The New York Racing and Wagering Board said the testing would begin Nov. 1, which would make New York the first state to require the test.

The board has taken an unusual course with the new testing. It allows horses that test positive for erythropoeitin to race again only after their systems have been found free of the antibodies. Officials said the antibodies can remain in a horse's body for four months or longer. In other drug-positive cases, trainers, not the horses, are suspended.

Officials have said one reason trainers cannot necessarily be targeted for using the antibodies is there is no precise way to determine when the antibodies were administered. The tests will look for samples of erythropoietin, known as EPO, and darbepoeitin, known as D-EPO. Officials hope suspending the horses until they are clean again will serve as a deterrent against use of the performance-enhancers.

The racing board announced last July its intention to begin the testing, but it had to write the rules and come up with the precise testing procedures.The 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.

The tests will look for drugs that can force a horse's body to produce more red blood cells, thereby improving performance, it is believed, by increasing the flow of oxygen through the bloodstream. The tests in New York, now done on an experimental basis in some other states, will begin in the fall.

New York officials said they worked with Ontario, Canada, racing regulators to devise uniform testing plans. EPO testing in Ontario will also begin Nov. 1.

"Eliminating and deterring the use of prohibited substances in racehorses continues to be a major focus of the board's efforts," racing board chairman Michael Hoblock said.