LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- For the first time, all 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby were administered surprise tests for performance-enhancing drugs.
Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet spokesman Mark York said the decision to test all the entrants was not motivated by suspicions or allegations of wrongdoing, but to ensure enforcement of the state's medication rules.
"There were no particular concerns," York said. "We've been doing post-race testing, but we've added pre-race to bolster enforcement."
The tests for blood-doping agents such as erythropoietin, or EPO, and darbepoietin were conducted by veterinarians working for the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, which is under the auspices of the cabinet.
Results are not expected to be made available until after Saturday's race.
Blood-doping agents increase the number of oxygen-carrying red-blood cells, boosting endurance, and are illegal in every racing jurisdiction. A positive test could result in a disqualification for purse money, but would not affect wagering results.
Scot Waterman, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, told The (Louisville) Courier-Journal, "It can be very, very dangerous to administer this drug to horses. It can kill them."
Waterman said testing has been difficult, in part because the drugs can be detected in a horse's system only three to five days after being ingested, but the effects last longer.
He said there was uncertainty whether three days before the race is the right time to test a horse. But, added Waterman, "It's better than post-race, I'll tell you that much."