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Beware of so-called ‘powdered EPO’

March 02, 2009

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Investigators attached to the Equine Medication Control and Drug Task Force have received information about individuals offering for sale and/or using so-called ‘powdered EPO.’ It also has been referred to as a powdered blood builder.

Acquisition, possession or use of EPO in any form is illegal and contrary to the Rules of Racing. However, an investigation has revealed that this particular substance being sold is nothing more than cobalt sulfate. Cobalt sulfate is a water-soluble cobalt salt with a variety of industrial and agricultural uses, including being used as an ingredient in feed and mineral supplements. Used in safe and appropriate formulations, the substance is known to have certain blood building qualities.

Nonetheless, according to Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) Veterinarian Supervisor Dr. Bruce Duncan, horse people should be very cautious.

“When administered in excess, this element can be toxic to horses. As a general rule, you need to be aware of all the ingredients being administered to your animals, and a qualified veterinarian should be consulted prior to introducing any new product.”

The ‘real’ erythropoietin (EPO) triggers the horse’s body to produce more red blood cells and is thought to improve performance by increasing the blood’s oxygen carrying capacity. However, in horses the main problem is EPO can lead to the development of an auto-immune disease whereby the horse attacks its own red blood cells, thus putting its health at risk.

Evidence presented at ORC hearings over the past year has confirmed that EPO/DPO has no legitimate use for a horse that is racing. It not only places the horse at risk, it imperils the future of the horse racing industry.

The racing community is reminded that a basic aspect of good medication control is ensuring that you only use products that are properly manufactured and clearly labeled, and that have been obtained from an authorized distributor. In the case of medications, you should ensure that these have been prescribed and/or dispensed by a licensed veterinarian.

The use of medications or products that are not properly prescribed may not be in the best interest of the horse. Medications or products that have no label, or are labeled in a suspicious way (e.g. “home made” label), or have no manufacturer’s name, should never be used. (ORC)

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