State stiffens penalties for 'milkshakes'; Harness trainers subject to $2,500 fine, 90-day ban


The Maryland Racing Commission yesterday adopted stricter penalties for trainers of Standardbreds caught administering their horses "milkshakes" -- concoctions containing sodium bicarbonate, or common baking soda.

Meeting at the Timonium fairgrounds, the commission voted unanimously to invoke a fine of $2,500 and a suspension of 90 days when blood tests after a race confirm levels of sodium bicarbonate above the legal limit.

The issue of "milkshakes" arose at last month's commission meeting when Dr. Thomas Lomangino, director of the state's drug-testing laboratory, said that evidence of the concoctions had been found in the blood of horses competing at Rosecroft Raceway, the harness track in Prince George's County.

He said that "milkshakes," administered properly, do not harm horses, but that they perhaps can enhance performance by reducing the level of fatigue-causing lactic acid in the muscle.

Greg Trotto, a harness trainer, said the penalties were "incredibly excessive." But Cheri Collison, an owner of Standardbreds, said that stricter penalties might "get everybody's attention, and we can all get back on a level playing field."

The commission was expected to hear from the Maryland Jockey Club about whether to upgrade Poor Jimmy's, the off-track betting parlor in Cecil County, or to seek another site in the area.

But Marty Jacobs, general counsel of the jockey club, said the issue is still under consideration.

Pub Date: 2/24/99

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