Trainer Lou Nichols was suspended by the Maryland racing stewards today after a search of his automobile revealed a vial containing traces of the drug Ritalin, otherwise known as methylphenidate hydrochloride.

Nichols was suspended for the remainder of the 108-day Pimlico meeting plus 20 days, the harshest penalty given a trainer in many years.

The ruling, released today, reads, "Three positive tests were obtained for the drug Ritalin by the Maryland Racing Commission laboratory. Ritalin is a stimulant. It has no medicinal value in the treatment of a horse. More importantly, it is a . . . drug for which a license to carry same is required."

State Steward J. Fred Colwill said, "We came down hard on this one because of the Ritalin. That drug has no place on a race track in the possession of an unlicensed person."

Nichols was not represented by counsel at the hearing. He had been suspended for 15 days on Saturday when a positive finding for the diuretic furosamide, also known as Lasix, was made after his horse Isabel Rose won the eighth race on March 26. It was after the positive finding for Lasix that a search of the Nichols automobile was routinely made.

Nichols was not available for comment today.