Eventers Jonathan Paget and Kevin McNab have both succeeded in running a “no fault or negligence” defence over the discovery of the long-acting sedative reserpine in their mounts at the Burghley Horse Trials last year.
Paget won the event on Clifton Promise, but was subsequently stripped of the CCI4* title and the prizemoney following the discovery of the prohibited substance.
The FEI Tribunal released its decisions in both cases this evening (New Zealand time).
The panel, comprising Erik Elstad, Jane Mulcahy, and Armand Leone, concluded that both Paget and McNab had succeeded in establishing that they bore no fault or negligence for their doping violations.
The tribunal imposed no further sanctions – both men had served bans – and felt neither should contribute to the costs of the judicial procedure.
However, for Paget, the loss of the Burghley title and the forfeiture of the prize money stand, in accordance with Article 9 of the equine anti-doping rules.
The tribunal traversed the facts of the case, centering on the use of a liquid supplement called LesstressE, produced by Trinity Consultants.
Paget, in his explanation, said he had moved in February 2011 from New Zealand to Britain. He described his training of Clifton Promise, who had become one of the best-performing horses in eventing.
The horse, he said, was highly strung and had often been quite anxious when it had not been challenged. It had a tendency to refuse its feed, particularly around competition periods, especially at major competitions.
He outlined the supplements used, which included LesstressE.
All had been submitted for testing after he learned about the positive finding, and LesstressE had been found to contain reserpine.
Evidence was provided to the tribunal showing that some batches of LesstressE were contaminated with reserpine. Indeed, Paget said he had started using it in 2010, at which time it had resulted in negative test results for FEI prohibited substances.
He had tried the product on Clifton Promise at an event in Aachen, Germany, in 2010, where the horse had tested negative, and this had reassured him that the product was safe to use and did not contain any prohibited substances.
Clifton Promise had since tested negative on several occasions between July 2010 and September 2013, always after having been administered LesstressE.
In addition, before using it he had contacted Roger Hatch, director of Trinity Consultants, who recommended LesstressE and unequivocally confirmed that it did not contain any prohibited substances.
Additionally, Paget said he always checked with a veterinarian whether any new product he intended to use contained any prohibited substances, and had done so in this case.
Dr Mark Dunnett outlined the analysis of various supplements used by Paget, which revealed reserpine contamination in LesstressE.
He had tested a total of 12 bottles of LesstressE, obtained from the stables of Paget, Adam Trew, McNab, and Jonelle Richards. Reserpine was detected in 10 of those bottles labelled as manufactured across various dates between May and August 2013.
Dunnett outlined the series of tests he conducted on ingredients used in its manufacture.
Paget argued that the evidence suggested that reserpine entered LesstressE as a contaminant at the manufacturing stage.
He argued he bore no fault or negligence over the presence of reserpine in the horse’s system, which had arisen as a result of exceptional circumstances and was entirely beyond his control.
He argued the contamination of LesstressE with reserpine had been a one-off, exceptional event which was limited to specific batches, probably due to contamination.
All of those individuals involved in the manufacture and supply of LesstressE had an excellent reputation and integrity, he said.
He submitted that he had carried out due diligence to ensure that the product did not contain any prohibited substances, and that he could not reasonably have known or suspected that reserpine was present.
The FEI argued before the tribunal that, even if Paget had established that it was more likely than not that the reserpine had got into the LesstressE during the manufacturing process, he had nonetheless accepted the risk of contamination and could therefore not plead a defence of no fault or negligence.
The FEI had specifically warned riders that supplements could contain, or be contaminated with, prohibited substances. Athletes exposed themselves to even higher risks when using not only one, but several supplements, it submitted.
In the case at hand, Paget had administered no less than seven different supplements to Clifton Promise, which it argued excluded him from denying any responsibility.
Paget stressed that he had not changed any supplements, including LesstressE, in the last three to four years, and that, previously, Clifton Promise had not tested positive for any prohibited substances, including reserpine.
The tribunal ruled that the levels of reserpine detected in Clifton Promise were consistent with the horse having been dosed with the contaminated LesstressE at Burghley.
It believed it was more likely than not that the LesstressE contamination had occurred at the manufacturing stage, at Trinity Consultants.
The tribunal said it noted the various steps taken by Paget in order to avoid a positive finding for prohibited substances – requesting and receiving confirmation from his veterinarian that the product was safe to use, confirming with the manufacturer that the product was free of prohibited substances, and checking the product’s representation on the manufacturer’s website.
In addition, it noted that Paget had used LesstressE around competitions before Burghley without producing positive tests.
The tribunal found that if the use of the product at Burghley had been the first time he had used it, or the first time he had been tested on the product, then it might have found that, without an independent third-party guarantee, he might have to assume the risk of contamination, and might therefore have found him to be at fault.
“The tribunal, however, finds that in the case at hand, [Paget] had used LesstressE at the event after having used it numerous times in the past, and multiple testing for prohibited substances, which the tribunal considers to be comparable to an independent third party testing authority.
“The tribunal therefore believes that the person responsible [Paget] had the right to rely on the product, and in particular to expect that the product did not contain any prohibited substances.
“The tribunal therefore comes to the conclusion that, given the specific circumstances in the case at hand, [Paget] could not have reasonably known or suspected that certain subsequent batches of LesstressE would be contaminated with reserpine.”