01/25/2005 1:00AM

Deadline for drug rules

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A group that is developing model rules on medication and drug testing has set March 1 as a deadline to come up with penalty recommendations and with guidelines for testing for the substances known as milkshakes, the group announced Tuesday.

The group, the Racing Medication and Testing Consort-ium, set the deadline at a meeting Monday in Beverly Hills, Calif. The recommendations will likely ask racing commissions to adopt much harsher penalties for drug infractions, especially those for drugs that are considered performance-enhancing and of no therapeutic benefit to a horse, such as cocaine.

The practice of milkshaking, thought to enhance a horse's performance, has become an urgent source of concern since an indictment two weeks ago alleged that a horse in New York had been administered a milkshake. The mixtures of sodium bicarbonate, sugar, electrolytes, and other substances are banned in every U.S. racing jurisdiction.

Current testing for milkshakes checks the levels of total carbon dioxide in the blood. The tests can be performed both prerace and postrace. The consortium is expected to recommend a carbon-dioxide level that would constitute a positive test and would be able to withstand legal challenges.