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Racing regulators kept hearing the reports: trainers were giving their horses a powerful performance-enhancing potion drawn from the backs of a type of South American frog.
But for months postrace testing could not find the substance, a painkiller far more powerful than morphine. Then a lab in the Denver area tweaked its testing procedure, and in recent weeks more than 30 horses from four states have tested positive for the substance, dermorphin, which is suspected of helping horses run faster. No trainer has yet been formally charged, although racing regulators expect that to happen soon. Because of its potency and ability to affect the outcome of a race, the use of dermorphin is considered to be one of the industry’s most serious drug violations.
“We hear about some pretty exotic stuff,” said Dr. Steven Barker, who directs the testing laboratory at Louisiana State University. “Frog juice — this is exotic.”