02/17/2005 1:00AM

Illinois alters drug policy


The Illinois Racing Board restructured the state's medication policy for cocaine and two therapeutic drugs during a special meeting Thursday in Chicago, making Illinois a so-called zero-tolerance state for cocaine.

The racing board established a threshold level of 150 nanograms per milliliter of urine for the metabolized derivative of cocaine, and it adopted penalties for even trace elements in a horse's postrace urine test. A first positive below the 150-nanogram threshold triggers a $250 fine for a trainer, a second positive results in a $500 fine, and a third a $1,500 fine.

From the mid-1990's through last summer, positive cocaine tests registering less than 100 nanograms - a billionth of a gram - per milliliter of urine carried no penalty. A positive test over 100 nanograms resulted in a six-month trainer suspension and purse redistribution, penalties that will continue to be enforced for positives above the 150-nanogram threshold.

Threshold levels are meant to distinguish between trace environmental contamination and performance-enhancing levels of a drug.

Threshold levels also were established Thursday for the therapeutic medications flunixin (20 nanograms per milliliter of urine) and ketoprofen (10 nanograms).

The policy restructuring takes place about eight months after the racing board changed testing facilities, outsourcing the work from a state-run laboratory to a lab at the University of Illinois-Chicago. The previous 100-nanogram cocaine threshold was administered informally by the racing board at the state lab, but the university lab has been reporting positive tests at trace levels.