06/26/2002 12:00AM

Jersey moves to ban EPO


The New Jersey Racing Commission has taken the first step toward a rule banning the possession of erythropoeitin, the blood-enhancing agent popularly known as EPO.

At a commission meeting on Wednesday, regulators voted to advertise a rule that would ban possession of EPO and several other drugs: the related drug darbepoietin, perflourocarbons, "and other drugs not approved for use by the United States Food and Drug Administration."

Under New Jersey statutes, a rule approved for advertisement is subject to public comment for a period of 30 to 60 days. The commission can approve the rule as written, amend it, or withdraw it after the public-comment period.

EPO, which boosts the body's ability to process oxygen by encouraging the creation of additional red blood cells, cannot be detected with any known tests. Earlier this year, the Association of Racing Commissioners International adopted a rule banning possession of EPO as a way to combat the drug, which is believed to be widely available on backstretches.

The RCI regulation treats EPO possession as a Class 1 violation, calling for a $5,000 fine and one- to five-year ban from racing for a first offense.