Arkansas, Illinois Clamping Down on Equine Milkshakes

Arkansas and Illinois have altered their medication policies to, among other things, provide harsher penalties for trainers if a horse in their care tests positive for a milkshake (a sodium bicarbonate mixture administered via stomach tube, intended to decrease blood acidity, countering the lactic acid that is produced during high speed performance and which increases fatigue).

Milkshake screening has been added to all post-race tests in Arkansas and is conducted at the discretion of the state veterinarian in Illinois.

Lonny Powell of the Association of Racing Commissioners International said most jurisdictions at some point have used carbon dioxide testing for milkshakes, but some have since discontinued the practice.

Arkansas implemented its milkshake testing program because of results found during unofficial testing last year. "Based on those unofficial tests, we decided there is a problem and we need to try and stop it," said George Wadley, DVM, Ark. state veterinarian.

Illinois milkshake testing began March 1 and includes tougher penalties than in Arkansas. In Illinois, if carbon dioxide levels exceed 39 millimoles per liter for a horse racing on Salix (furosemide), or 37 millimoles per liter if not on Salix, the trainer will be fined $2,000 and suspended for at least 60 days. Any purse earnings would be redistributed.

For a second offense, a trainer is subject to a $5,000 fine and 180-day suspension; a third offense within five years will result in a $5,000 fine and a two-year suspension.

Additionally, the horse will be subject to "early detention" for a period identical to the trainer's suspension. Early detention is a "pre-race guarded quarantine" for no less than six hours prior to the scheduled post time for the first race.

If an owner or trainer contends such carbon dioxide levels are physiologically normal for a horse which tests positive, a written request can be made to hold the horse in quarantine to be re-tested periodically. If the claim proves to be accurate, there will be no penalty.

In Arkansas, a trainer is subject to a $1,000 fine for the first offense, a $1,500 fine and suspension of up to six months for a second, and a $2,500 fine and a suspension of up to one year for a third or further offense.

The language regulating hypodermic injection in Illinois also was altered. Previously, the rule only banned foreign substances from being injected into a horse 24 hours prior to his scheduled start. Now, no injection of any kind can be made during that period. Arkansas has also upgraded dimethyl sulfoxide, which is used to increase movement in arthritic joints, from a Class 5 to Class 4 medication.

For "California Milkshake Testing Underway," see www.TheHorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=1573.

About the Author

Victor Ryan

Victor Ryan is a past writer for The Blood-Horse magazine.

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