04/13/2006 12:00AM

Ten-year ban in drug case

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Seldon Ledford, an Illinois-based harness trainer at the center of a blood-doping investigation in New Jersey, was suspended Wednesday by the New Jersey Racing Commission for 10 1/2 years and fined $12,000.

The racing commission issued the ruling and four others after hearing two days of testimony at Freehold Raceway into allegations that Ledford and his assistants conspired to fix horse races by administering the blood-enhancing drug Aranesp, or darbepoetin, to horses who raced at The Meadowlands. Darbepoetin, developed to treat anemia in humans, is illegal in all racing jurisdictions.

Last week, state police raided Ledford's barn at a New Jersey training center, Showplace Farms, and the homes of a veterinarian and assistant trainer who worked for Ledford. Police said they found vials of Aranesp, syringes, and a shock-wave therapy machine. The machine, used to promote healing in soft tissues, is illegal to possess without a license in New Jersey.

According to Frank Zanzuccki, the executive director of the racing commission, Ledford appealed the suspension and fine on Thursday and asked the commission to grant a stay. Zanzuccki said that commissioners will make a determination on the stay next week.

Also suspended were Ledford's son, Eric, a driver at The Meadowlands, for 10 1/2 years, with a $12,000 fine; Ryan Dailey, Ledford's assistant trainer, and his wife, Ardena, for eight years each, with a $10,000 fine each; and John Witmer, a veterinarian, for seven years, with a $7,500 fine.