EPO Test Raises Questions About Regulation

The impact a New South Wales test for erythropoietin, commonly known as EPO, will have on horse racing in the United States remains to be seen.The subject will be addressed during the Dec. 4 medication summit in Tucson, Ariz.

A test for EPO, designed for use in humans suffering with anemia, was developed in New South Wales this fall. Chemists in the U.S. have been working to develop a test as well. Jim Gallagher, executive director of the National Thoroughbred Racing
Association's drug testing task force, said EPO is different than other medications in that it is administered in treatments over time. Therefore, it must be classified differently, he said.

"The question is how would it hold up in court when a call is made?" Gallagher said. "We have to get into a position where EPO is a prohibited substance. EPO requires regular treatments over multiple weeks to build up in the system. Our rules speak to race day, but not months. It's a substance, but you must ban the practice of administering EPO."

The Association of Racing Commissioners International has helped fund development of a test for EPO at Rutgers University in New Jersey. RCI president Lonny Powell couldn¹t be reached to comment on the test or EPO's classification by RCI standards. In Massachusetts, the drug benzylpiperazine, similar to "ecstacy" according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, was found in a urine sample. Drugs categorized as "piperazines" have been used to rid bowels of parasitic
worms, according to the DEA .

Stewards at Suffolk Downs awaited word from the RCI as to the classification of the substance. In the interim, no action was taken against Tammi Piermarini, trainer of Dixie Draw, who won Oct. 6 at Suffolk and subsequently tested positive.


About the Author

Tom LaMarra

Tom LaMarra, a native of New Jersey and graduate of Rutgers University, has been news editor at The Blood-Horse since 1998. After graduation he worked at newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as an editor and reporter with a focus on municipal government and politics. He also worked at Daily Racing Form and Thoroughbred Times before joining The Blood-Horse. LaMarra, who has lived in Lexington since 1994, has won various writing awards and was recognized with the Old Hilltop Award for outstanding coverage of the horse racing industry. He likes to spend some of his spare time handicapping races.

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