05/24/2006 12:00AM

Ohio steps up drug testing

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Ohio has begun prerace blood gas testing of Thoroughbreds in an attempt to detect excessive levels of total carbon dioxide, the result of the illegal administration of alkalizing agents. Blood gas testing in Ohio has been restricted to Standardbreds for the past eight years.

Dr. Daniel Wilson, a veterinarian who has worked with Standardbreds for many years, said that alkalizing agents - commonly a combination of baking soda, sugar, and electrolytes - are intended to reduce muscle fatigue and improves endurance by reducing the buildup of lactic acid in the horse's muscles.

Ohio's penalty for a carbon dioxide positive - above 37 millimoles per milliliter - is believed to be the stiffest in the country for a first offense: a one-year suspension and a $1,000 fine.

According to Ohio Racing Commission inspector Steve Zaper, one race a day at the state's Thoroughbred tracks - Thistledown and River Downs are currently running - is randomly selected and every horse in the race has blood drawn.