Could scientists be on the verge of developing a ‘blood
passport’ to more easily detect illegal use of EPO in horses? On today’s Trot
Radio, we get an update from a researcher who has been working on improving
testing methods for the last eight years.
detect EPO are lagging; it is very difficult to detect EPO being given to a
horse," stated University of Guelph’s Dr. Dorothee Bienzle. "However,
the effect of EPO is always the same: it always increases the red blood cell
number and it always increases the hemoglobin. Our interest is to determine
what "normal" amounts of red blood cells and "normal"
amounts of hemoglobin are in horses that are licensed to race and ready to race."
Bienzle confirms with
Trot Radio’s Norm Borg that the patent for EPO (known also as erythropoetin)
has expired, thus adding more variations of it to the black market. In
addition, the erythropoetin molecule itself is rather small and that compounds
its detection difficulty according to Bienzle.
"It’s a very
small molecule, it exerts its effects rather quickly and then it’s gone so it’s
difficult to find it in blood or in urine."
When working to
establish baseline levels of hemoglobin in racehorses, Bienzle found that
thoroughbreds have different levels than horses in harness racing or quarter
horses. Further, the fitness of the horse also factored into setting a
"So we need to
look at horses that are fit and training to race, what does [the hemoglobin
level] look like right before a race, right after a race and how is it per