03/24/2004 1:00AM

Delaware enacts EPO rule


The Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission unanimously passed a rule on Tuesday that would disqualify any horse from racing if it tests positive for the illegal blood-enhancing drug erythropoietin, commonly known as EPO.

The rule, which will go into effect beginning May 11, was modeled after rules passed last year in Canada and New York. Under the rule, any horse who tests positive for EPO will be prohibited from racing until its system is clear of the antibodies produced by an EPO injection.

Delaware has been testing experimentally for EPO since last spring. John Wayne, the administrator for racing of the commission, said 23 tests from horses racing at Delaware Park last year had produced suspicious results, but that only four had "likely been valid" after retesting.

"We found that when we first started, there were indications that EPO was being used, but by the end of the meet in November, those indications dried up," Wayne said. "It looks like our strategy worked."

EPO is believed to stimulate a horse's spleen to produce oxygen-carrying red-blood cells.

Because of the difficulties in determining when EPO was administered, no trainer in Delaware will be held responsible for an EPO positive. The rules in New York and Canada also hold trainers blameless.

The Delaware rules also allow a trainer or owner to void a claim of a horse if the horse tests positive for EPO after the race from which it was claimed.