Five Endurance Riders Suspended For Drug Positives
The FEI recently imposed a six month suspension on a Portugese endurance rider whose horse tested positive for Phenylbutazone, a common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. While Phenylbutazone is a permitted substance in national competition, it is a Controlled Medication Substance under the FEI’s Equine Prohibited Substance List and can only be administered to a horse in competition upon submission of a valid Veterinary Form. In this case, the rider did not contest the accuracy of the test results or the positive finding, and failed to submit any information or explanation to the FEI in an attempt to avoid punishment. Finding the offense to be one of strict liability, the Tribunal imposed a six month period of ineligibility (suspension), a fine of 1500 Swiss Francs, and assessed payment of an additional 1000 Swiss Francs towards the legal costs of conducting the proceeding. The case is FEI v. Barradas, in re: “Ralph”, FEI Medication Case No. 2014/FT02 (May 24, 2016)
An Oman National Federation rider was suspended for six months after the horse he rode in competition tested positive for dexamethasone and furosemide. Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid with anti-inflammatory effect, and furosemide is a diuretic used for the treatment of epistaxis, hypertension and oedema. Both substances are classified as Controlled medication Substances under the Equine Prohibited substances List. The rider failed to submit any information or explanation to the FEI in an attempt to avoid punishment. Finding the offense to be one of strict liability, the Tribunal imposed a six month period of ineligibility (suspension), a fine of 1500 Swiss Francs, and assessed payment of an additional 1000 Swiss Francs towards the legal costs of conducting the proceeding. The case is FEI v. Al Balushi, in re “Victar”, Positive controlled Medication Case No. 2014/CM09 (June 23, 2016)
A Qatar Equestrian Federation rider was suspended for six months after admitting he had mistakenly administered a cream containing dexamethasone to his horse. The rider apologized and promised to be more careful in the future. But the FEI did not believe his explanation because he had ridden another horse, owned by the same owner, that also tested positive for dexamethasone at a different event. The FEI argued that this made the proffered defense “somewhat implausible and indicated a high degree or Fault or Negligence on the part of both the [rider] and the Owner.” The Tribunal suggested that the two positives for the same substance confirmed “the routine use of the product containing Dexamethasone.” The Tribunal imposed on both the rider and the horse’s owner a six month period of ineligibility (suspension), a fine of 1000 Swiss Francs on the rider and 2000 Swiss Francs on the owner, and assessed payment of an additional 2500 Swiss Francs towards the legal costs of conducting the proceeding. The case is FEI v Al Naimi and Al Hababi, in re: Next In Line At Grangeway, Positive controlled Medication Case No.: 2015/CM03
A rider from Saudi Arabia was suspended for one year after his horse tested positive for salicylic acid, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. The rider gave no explanation for how the substance might have entered his horse’s system. In addition to the one year suspension, the rider was fined 2000 Swiss francs and assessed costs of 1000 Swiss Francs towards the legal costs of the proceeding. The case is FEI v. Albakry, in re: “Alexia”, Positive Controlled Medication Case No.: 2015/CM02 (June 9, 2016)
A rider from Uruguay was suspended for two years after his horse tested positive for Guanabenz, an antihypertension medication with sedative and analgesic effect. It is a Banned Substance under the FEI Equine Prohibited Substance List. The rider claimed that she did not know how the substance might have entered her horse’s system, but she suspected that it might have been an unlisted ingredient in a gel called “Equanimity” which she had used for the first time prior to the event. The gel is a calming, herbal product that is claimed by the manufacturer to be “FEI approved.” The FEI argued that the rider’s explanation was no explanation at all, but mere speculation without any evidentiary foundation. The FEI pointed to its universal warning that supplements and herbal remedies are risky to administer and provide no defense to a positive doping test. The FEI’s consistent message is “if in any doubt, do not give it to your horse.” The Tribunal pointed out that the rider had not had the Equanimity product tested to determine whether it did or did not contain Guanabenz, and suspended her for two years, imposing a fine of 1500 Swiss Francs plus assessed payment of another 1500 Swiss Francs towards the costs of the judicial proceeding. The case is FEI v. Villar, in re: “LG Muneerah”, Positive Anti-Doping Case No. 2015/BS07 (July 27, 2016)
Colombian Dressage Rider Suspended For Six Months Over Caffeine Positive
The FEI recently imposed a six month suspension on a Colombian dressage rider whose horse tested positive for Theophylline and Caffeine. Theophylline is a bronchodilator used to dilate the airways and caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. Both substances were, at the time the sample was tested, Controlled Medication Substances under the FEI’s Equine Prohibited Substances List. However, during the on-going proceedings in the case, both substances were re-classified as “Specified Substances”, to-wit, substances that have been considered by the FEI List Group as being “more likely consumed by Horses inadvertently and for a purpose other than the enhancement of Sport Performance.” The rider blamed the positive findings on feed contamination.
According to the Tribunal’s decision, the rider denied administering any prohibited substance to her horse. She and her groom both submitted testimony regarding the care the horse received, the fact that it was allergic to oats (and thus was fed a special alfalfa based feed), that it was otherwise healthy and had never been administered any medication for any respiratory problems, and that it was a “hot” horse to whom administration of caffeine would be counter-productive in dressage competition. The rider submitted evidence from several veterinarians who explained that the problem of horse feed and hay contamination with coffee and cocoa was a real and unavoidable problem in Colombia, that country being a major producer of both. One veterinarian testified that “an unusual number of competition horses in Colombia had tested positive for Theophylline in the past; this suggested that the substances had not been intentionally administered to the horses but rather that the horses had been exposed to Caffeine or Theophylline from a common source such as contaminated feed.” In support of her contamination theory, the rider also argued that only metabolites of the substances had been found in the horse’s urine sample at excruciatingly low levels.
The rider also complained to the Tribunal that since the FEI had delayed almost four months before notifying her of the positive test results, she no longer had on hand any of the feed that had been fed to the horse. This delay, the rider argued, impossibly hindered her defense to the charges. The FEI replied that it was not unusual for the laboratory to take two to four months to analyze samples and submit its report.
The FEI rejected the rider’s feed contamination theory, presenting its own expert testimony that the metabolites observed in the urine were consistent with Theophylline administration, and that “if Caffeine had been administered to the Horse either inadvertently as a contaminant from feed or as an administration of pure Caffeine then the expected profile of metabolites in the urine was to be different to those observed.” The FEI also took the position that even if the source of the positive test had been feed contamination, the rider was still at fault for the violation: “according to the [rider] herself, the danger of feed, concentrated feed and alfalfa being contaminated with Caffeine and Theophylline had been long recognized in Colombia. The [rider] should therefore have made herself familiar with at least the most common and known risks of contamination of feed in her country, and should have taken preventative measure to avoid any such contamination.” The FEI also pointed out to the Tribunal that the rider had had a prior medications violation.
The Tribunal adopted the FEI’s position and found the rider guilty of the violation. While the Tribunal rejected the rider’s feed contamination defense, it took great pains to point out that it considered it every rider’s responsibility to not only check the labels of any product being fed to their horse, but “that simply checking the label is not sufficient” because by definition a contaminant is not listed on a product label: “The Tribunal holds that a professional rider has to make him or herself familiar with the most common risks of contamination in his or her country; even more so when the [rider] is connected closely to the Equestrian community, and her national Federation, and developing the sport in that country.” The Tribunal seemed to suggest that if the contamination problem in Colombia was as great as the rider argued, then she did not take the issue seriously enough. The Tribunal did not provide any guidance on what steps the rider or her national governing body should have taken that would have been sufficient to satisfy the Tribunal and substantiate a defense to the violation.
Finding the offense to be one of strict liability, the Tribunal imposed a six month period of ineligibility (suspension), a fine of 1000 Swiss Francs, and assessed payment of an additional 1500 Swiss Francs towards the legal costs of conducting the proceeding.
The case is FEI v. Jaramillo, in re: “Wakana”, FEI Medication Case No. 2015/CM04 (April 19, 2016)
Three Show Jumpers Prove “Contamination Defense”
Show jumping riders from Colombia, Greece and the Netherlands recently convinced the FEI Tribunal that they were not at fault for their horses testing positive for prohibited substances after consuming noxious weeds. The Colombian rider proved he was not at fault for his horse testing positive for atropine and scopolamine, and the Greek and Dutch riders proved their horses had consumed poppy flowers or seeds.
Atropine is an anticholinergic used in the treatment of ophthalmic diseases, and for bronchodilation in recurrent airway obstruction. Scopolamine is an anticholinergic and antimuscarinic used to treat gastrointestinal spasm; it can further reduce respiratory tract secretions. Both substances are classified as Controlled Medication Substances under the Equine Prohibited Substances List, although both are on the FEI’s “Specified Substances” list, to-wit, they have been considered by the FEI List Group as being “more likely consumed by Horses inadvertently and for a purpose other than the enhancement of Sport Performance.” The Colombian rider blamed the positive findings on either weed consumption or feed contamination.
According to the Colombian rider, his horse had not been administered any medication except for omeprazole (which is permitted for the treatment or prevention of gastric ulcers). The event took place in the rider’s home country of Colombia, and the rider maintained that he took great precautions to keep his home stable area free from certain noxious weeds prevalent in the area, particularly Night-Blooming Jasmine and Datura – both belonging to the family of the solanaceae, an abundant species in that part of the world that is known for containing a high concentration of alkaloids including the two substances found in the sample taken from the horse. The rider introduced evidence to back up his claim that his own property was free from these weeds. On the other hand, the rider argued, the event organizers had not taken pains to eliminate the weeds from the competition grounds. The rider introduced pictorial evidence that showed the weeds were prevalent in the vicinity of the show grounds and a trainer testified that he had found Night-Blooming Jasmine in the event’s stabling area. The rider presented substantial evidence, including testimony from his groom, that his horse had been hand grazed for about 40 minutes per day during the competition, but only in the designated grazing areas on the competition grounds.
The horses from Greece and the Netherlands tested positive for oripavine and morphine, the simultaneous presence of which does not derive from any pharmaceutical product but from the poppy plant. The riders surmised that hay or grain fed to their horses had been contaminated with poppy seeds.
The FEI did not dispute any of the three riders’ explanations. The FEI’s veterinary pharmacology expert opined the Colombian rider’s explanation was entirely plausible and that an actual administration of the substances was unlikely because both were more dangerous than effective: “there [are] limited advantages of administering clinical grade Atropine and Scopolamine to a horse as those substances [are] not very [effective] anticholinergics, and as the side effects of those substances would outweigh any advantages. Furthermore, too high a dose might impair the performance of a horse.” The FEI conceded that the rider was not “at fault” and bore no responsibility for the presence of the substances in his horse’s system and should be punished no more than he had already as a result of the automatic provisional suspension that went into effect upon the report of the positive finding.
As for the issue of poppy seed contamination, the FEI accepted the explanations and noted that “this is an issue that the FEI is aware of and there are currently [other] ongoing cases before the FEI Tribunal involving possible contamination [and in two other cases] it was established that the source of Oripavine and morphine was due to poppy seed contamination of a food product. . . . Oripavine is a substance that is not found in any veterinary or human medical product due to its very narrow therapeutic margin and extremely high toxicity levels.
The Tribunal agreed, and immediately lifted the provisional suspension without imposing any further sanction on the riders.
The cases are FEI v. Ramirez, in re: “Offshore D’Amaury”, FEI Medication Case No. 2015/CM06 (February, 2016); FEI v. Van De Spek, in re: “Kinka’s Boy”, FEI Positive Anti-Doping Case No. 2014-BS04 (July 13, 2016); FEI v. Martini, in re: “Vitess SC”, Positive Anti-Doping Case No: 2014-BS05 (July 13, 2016).
Three Show Jumping Riders Learn That Blaming Support Staff Is No Defense
Four show jumping riders recently learned that they could not avoid FEI sanction by blaming their support staff for their horses testing positive for various controlled or prohibited substances.
The horse of a Spanish rider tested positive for phenylbutazone and dexamethasone, both anti-inflammatory drugs. The rider blamed a groom for mistakenly mixing up the feed of two similar looking horses. The rider argued that he had more than 50 horses in his care, and that the groom had made an honest mistake. Neither the FEI nor the Tribunal was swayed by this defense. The rider had served a provisional suspension of seven months by the time of the hearing for an offense that would normally result in a six month suspension, so the Tribunal did not impose any additional period of ineligibility on the rider.
The horse of an amateur Ukrainian rider tested positive for flunixin, phenylbutazone and oxyphenbutazone, all non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The rider admitted the administration, but explained that it had been done by a groom after the event organizers had announced the cancellation of the competition due to adverse weather conditions. Apparently, the weather improved the next day and the event organizers announced competition would resume. A second groom – unaware of the actions of the first groom in medicating the horse the night before – prepared the horse for the competition. The FEI was unsympathetic to the rider and pointed out that she “could not simply try to escape punishment by claiming that the groom in question made an ‘independent decision'” to medicate the horse. The Tribunal faulted the rider for not having in place any system for documenting what medications and supplements were given to her horse during an event. The Tribunal imposed a suspension of six months which, at the time of its decision, the rider had provisionally completed. A fine and costs of 2500 Swiss Francs was imposed.
A two year suspension was handed out in an anti-doping case involving a ride from Iran. The Iranian rider’s horse tested positive for stanozol, flunixin and dexamethasone. While flunixin and dexamethasone are both anti-inflammatory drugs, stanozol is an anabolic steroid and a banned substance. The rider admitted the administration, but claimed to be “hands off” in the barn and that the substances had been administered to the horse by his trainer, without his knowledge. The trainer, in providing his own explanation to the FEI, blamed one of his grooms for administering the medication in order to cover up the groom’s negligence in allowing the horse to get loose and get into a fight with another horse. The trainer promised that in the future, he would lock up all medications so the situation could not arise again. The Tribunal was unsympathetic to the rider, and suspended him for a period of two years, imposing fines and costs of 4000 Swiss Francs.
The Controlled Medication Cases involving anti-inflammatories were: FEI v. Oliva, in re: “Castle Quality”, 2014/CM07 (June 2, 2016); FEI v. Sheinich, in re: “Carinjo R”, 2015/CM07 (July 27, 2016). The Anti-Doping case was FEI v. Shekofti, in re: “Sir De Diamant”, 2015/BS09 (July 27, 2016).