Winning Burghley horse tests positive for banned substance

Jonathan Paget and Clifton Promise.
Jonathan Paget and Clifton Promise at Burghley last month. © Nigel Goddard/KS Digital Photography

A blood sample from New Zealand horse Clifton Promise has tested positive for the banned substance Reserpine following his victory at Burghley.

Equestrian Sports New Zealand (ESNZ) was notified by the FEI today of the positive result to the test, which was taken from Clifton Promise after he was ridden to victory by Jonathan “Jock” Paget at Burghley on September 8.

Clifton Promise, owned by Frances Stead, was routinely tested after the completion of the competition.

Resperine is listed on the FEI’s Clean Sport database as a prohibited substance. It is classed as a tranquiliser, and is an alkaloid used for long-term sedation in horses. The database said several side effects had been reported, including hypotension, reduced heart rate, increased gastrointestinal motility, and diarrhoea.

In humans, it has been used for the control of high blood pressure and for the relief of psychotic symptoms, although it is rarely used today because of the development of better drugs for these purposes.

In accordance with the FEI’s regulations, as the ‘Person Responsible’ for the horse, Paget is provisionally suspended from any national or international competition with immediate effect, pending the testing of the B sample and any subsequent hearings.

Clifton Promise is provisionally suspended for two months pending the B sample and any subsequent hearings.

ESNZ said in a statement that Surrey-based Paget was understandably shocked at the finding.

He and all relevant parties have stated categorically that none of them have taken any actions with the intent of administering any prohibited substance.

Jonathan Paget
Jonathan Paget after his win at Burghley. © Mike Bain

ESNZ and Paget were working to establish the cause of the positive test and would provide submissions to the FEI Tribunal as required.

ESNZ chief executive Jim Ellis told Horsetalk that he broke the news to Paget around midday (NZ time) after the FEI formally advised his organisation of the result.

“Jock is obviously very upset and shocked. He is keen to go through the treatments that the horse has had.

“Clearly, that is not an easy exercise to do.”

That process, he said, may ultimately involve the testing of products used on Clifton Promise to determine whether any contamination had occurred, and to ensure they met required standards.

Ellis confirmed that Paget had asked that the B sample be tested.

He has exercised his right to have the sample tested at a different laboratory to the A sample.

Ellis confessed he had not heard of Reserpine until the FEI had advised him of the test result.

From all accounts, it appeared to be a fairly old-school substance, he said, which was historically used for the treatment of high blood pressure in humans.

It had potential use in horses as a sedative, primarily to enable an animal to recover from illness or for an injury to heal over a long period of time, he said.

“It is not a substance you would expect to see in any horse that is currently performing.”

Ellis said he had spoken to Paget several times during the day.

ESNZ high performance director Sarah Harris is in Britain and is assisting Paget in arranging an audit of any products used on Clifton Promise.

“Jock and team vets have got to go through every single treatment,” he said. “There may be substances that we need to test,” Ellis said.

Ellis said he had also formally notified Stead, as the owner of the horse, and funding agencies.

He said any such violation ultimately rested with Paget as the Person Responsible, as defined under FEI anti-doping rules. “But all members of the High Performance team will be doing what we can for Jock.

“We are not too down-spirited,” said Ellis, who indicated the remaining process was likely to play out over the next five to six weeks.

Ellis said New Zealand had never had a horse test positive for a banned substance in FEI testing.

New Zealand's Jonathan Paget and Clifton Promise are in fourth place after the final day of dressage at Badminton.
Jonathan Paget and Clifton Promise, who also won the Badminton Horse Trials in May. © Mike Bain

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