01/08/2008 1:00AM

Illinois to test for steroids


Horses racing in Illinois will begin to be tested for anabolic steroids and blood-enhancing agents this year. The Illinois Racing Board voted to adopt rules governing such tests in a meeting on Tuesday in Chicago, though steroid testing probably will not begin until late summer or autumn.

The Illinois rules will fundamentally follow model rules laid out by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, according to the racing board's staff, though the Illinois rules could slightly alter the model rules. For instance, the commissioners' panel's model rule on out-of-competition blood-enhancing tests says that a horse can be tested any time and at any place. The Illinois rule will require a trainer to bring a horse from a training center or farm to the racetrack to be tested within a reasonable time period.

Testing for erythropoietin, known as EPO, or other blood-enhancing agents can probably begin within two or three months. Testing for steroids will require more time to start up, since it will require new equipment and regimens in the laboratory.

Illinois currently has no rules prohibiting the use of steroids in racehorses. The new rule will be zero-tolerance for all but four steroids commonly used therapeutically. For those four drugs, threshold levels will be established to govern positive tests at trace-level amounts.