09/07/2005 11:00PM

Board closer on new test rules


California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday afternoon signed a bill that will set in motion new regulations allowing the California Horse Racing Board to test for banned alkalizing agents, which are commonly referred to as milkshakes.

The bill, which was supported by the racing industry, changed the state's racing law so that split-sample testing will not be required when testing for total carbon dioxide in blood samples, the only method currently used to detect alkalizing agents. The current law requires that all samples in the state be split, with one held in reserve, as a protection for trainers.

California's racetracks have been conducting tests for alkalizing agents since last year under so-called house rules. Although five trainers have had horses test positive at Thoroughbred tracks in the state, the rules do not include fines or suspensions.

Alkalizing agents are thought to allow horses to stave off fatigue by delaying the build-up of lactic acid in muscles.

Drug-testing officials contend that split-sample testing is impossible for total carbon dioxide because the carbon dioxide dissolves in the sample within days of collection. Split samples are not typically tested until a positive result has already been determined on the initial sample - a process that can take up to a week - meaning that the split sample would almost always test negative.

In January, the state racing board approved rules dealing with alkalizing agents, but those rules could not be formally adopted until the law regarding split samples was changed.

Mike Marten, a spokesman for the racing board, said that the board will now submit the rules to the Office of Administrative Law, a state government agency that must review and approve any rules before the regulations go into effect. He said it was unclear how long it will take before the racing board takes over the testing from tracks.

"Right now, I can't say one week, two weeks, or three weeks, or anything," Marten said. "The process is not set in stone."