01/17/2006 12:00AM

HBPA forms cocaine panel

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The National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has formed a committee to establish a recommended threshold level for the detection of cocaine in postrace urine tests, officials for the association said Tuesday.

The committee was formed in reaction to multiple findings of cocaine in horses recently in Indiana, according to Kent Stirling, the head of the association's medication committee and executive director of its Florida chapter. Stirling said that all of the cocaine positives in Indiana were detected at levels below 35 nanograms per milliliter of urine. States that have adopted thresholds for cocaine typically call positives only above 50 nanograms per milliliter.

Horsemen have consistently argued for threshold levels for drugs such as cocaine rather than the zero-tolerance rules in place in many states. Trainers have successfully argued in front of racing commissions and courts that trace levels of many drugs do not affect a horse's performance and are many times the result of accidental contamination.

"We need to stop all this silliness," Stirling said. "You've got guys in Indiana whose names are being dragged through the mud, and all of it is pretty unnecessary."