10/04/2004 11:00PM

La. may tighten EPO rule

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The Louisiana State Racing Commission will consider a new rule on Friday that seeks to penalize horses that test positive for the antibodies of the blood-doping drug erythropoietin, commonly known as EPO.

The rule, which was modeled after regulations currently in place in Canada, New York, and Delaware, would prohibit any horse that tests positive for antibodies of EPO from running until the antibodies clear the horse's system. It would also void any claim for a horse that tests positive for the antibodies immediately after the horse is claimed.

Charles Gardiner III, the executive director of the commission, said the proposed rule would likely allow regulators to test for EPO "out of competition," meaning that horses that are not entered in races could be required to give a blood sample.

Louisiana's laboratory has been testing for EPO antibodies since 2002, Gardiner said, and 47 horses have tested positive. The names of the horses are being kept confidential because Louisiana does not have a way to penalize horses that test positive for the antibodies, rather than the drug itself, Gardiner said.

Gardiner said that if commissioners approve a rule, it could be adopted on an emergency basis at the commission's meeting in December.

According to regulators, EPO is typically used on a regular schedule to improve a horse's ability to process oxygen. The drug itself clears a horse's body within three days of use, but antibodies produced by the drug can last up to eight weeks.