06/21/2010 11:00PM

Pennsylvania to start testing for carbon dioxide

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The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission will begin testing for the stamina-boosting formulas known as milkshakes beginning July 15, commission officials said on Tuesday.

Pennsylvania is the last major racing state to put into place tests for milkshakes, which are concoctions of baking soda and other ingredients that can be detected by testing blood for excessive levels of total carbon dioxide. Last year, the American Graded Stakes Committee rescinded the grades of three stakes races run in Pennsylvania because the committee's rules require testing for milkshakes. The committee later reinstated the grades after the commission vowed to put in place testing procedures in March.

Under the procedures, horses can be tested "at random, with probable cause, or at the discretion of racetrack stewards," according to the commission. Penalties for a first-offense include a $1,500 fine, a 30-to-60-day suspension, and loss of purse.

Almost every racing jurisdiction put in place mandatory testing for milkshakes over the past five years because of concerns over abuse of the concoctions and the recommendations of several industry groups.

Justin Fleming, a spokesperson for the commission, said that the delay between the approval of rules governing testing on June 17 and the start of testing on July 15 was to allow for time to communicate the policy to tracks and horsemen, as well as to provide a reasonable amount of time to put the testing procedures in place.

Pennsylvania's lack of testing for milkshakes also entered into a controversy last year at Penn National Race Course in which a search of a van used to ship horses owned by Michael Gill turned up baking soda, in addition to four "hypodermic needles or syringes." Although Gill maintained that the baking soda was to be mixed into the horses' feed tubs after the race to prevent cramping during the trip back to his training farm, his trainer, Anthony Adamo, was suspended for 90 days because of the finding.