By: Mary Rampellini

The New Mexico Racing Commission announced late Thursday the bronchodilator clenbuterol will now be classified as a Class 3 controlled substance in the state in a move that enables criminal prosecution of horsemen found to be illegally in possession of the drug. The agency worked with the New Mexico Board of Pharmacy on the new classification, reached Tuesday.

“There are still a small handful of horsemen out there that did not seem to get the memo that New Mexico has a permitted level of zero when it comes to clenbuterol,” Izzy Trejo, executive director of the commission, said in a press release.

Positive tests for clenbuterol in post-race samples have declined over the last two years in New Mexico, according to the press release, but levels of about 30,000 picograms have been detected in some horses. In 2014, there were 71 positives for clenbuterol in post-race tests in New Mexico, a number that increased to 85 in 2015. But in 2016 there were 57 positives, and last year, 51, according to the press release.

“Clenbuterol, when used indiscriminately, is a dangerous drug not only for the equine athlete but for the human athlete,” Ken Corazza, a New Mexico racing commissioner, said in the release. “There have been several drug overdoses from clenbuterol in humans recently and we felt maybe other jurisdictions will follow in trying to fulfill our duty to protect our horses from a drug that has long been abused by horsemen. As commissioners, we have to continue to effectively make the effort to protect the horse. Without the horse, we have no racing industry.”