New York to Suspend Horses With Blood-Doping Antibodies

New York is poised to become the first state to begin testing horses for blood-doping antibodies used to enhance performance, New York State Racing and Wagering Board officials have announced.

In an unusual move, the board said horses that test positive for erythropoeitin will be suspended until their systems are again clean. For other drug positives, trainers of horses that test positive for banned drugs are suspended.

But board spokeswoman Stacy Clifford said the science behind the EPO test is far more complex than other drug tests. The examinations won't be able to determine precisely when the drug was administered.

"These antibodies can stay in the horse for several months, so a different trainer could have been involved," she said. By suspending the horse, the board hopes the punishment will serve as a deterrent to others who might use EPO and related substances.

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. EPO testing will begin there Nov. 1. Final rules for the new EPO testing program in New York are still being formulated.