Nicholson ‘really pissed off’ over Paget doping drama

Avebury and Andrew Nicholson
Andrew Nicholson and 2012 Burghley winner Avebury. The combination has just been promoted to first for the 2013 running of the event. © Mike Bain

New Zealand eventing rider Andrew Nicholson has come out swinging after the latest developments over the positive dope test returned by Jonathan Paget’s winning mount after Britain’s four-star Burghley Horse Trials.

Andrew Nicholson
Andrew Nicholson. © Mike Bain

In horse doping cases, the procedures followed by equestrian sport’s governing body, the FEI, are lengthy, but Paget pushed for the matter to be dealt with before the main hearing in order to clear up any uncertainty around rider rankings and standings. As a result his disqualification was confirmed by the FEI Tribunal earlier today.

Nicholson, who with Avebury placed second to Paget at Burghley, now steps into the title and is a contender for the “Grand Slam” of eventing, where a rider must win Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton events consecutively to win the $US350,000 prize.

Nicholson spoke to TVNZ from the United States, where he is preparing for this weekend’s Rolex Kentucky Horse Trials.

“To me it’s a load of bullshit. He would have lost his titles anyway,” Nicholson said. “Nothing against Jock, but to me [the media] are on the wrong wavelength. It’s not a case of him handing it over now, seven or eight months later, it’s more a case of what good it is going to do the sport,” he said.

“You are in New Zealand so you will be hearing all this bullshit about what a good man Jock was for surrendering it, well that’s a load bullshit, he surrendered nothing, he didn’t have it to f***ing start with. He lost it the moment the horse was tested.” 

He then said that he has “had enough of Jock and the doping thing” and that “they have really pissed me off with this latest stuff”.

Paget’s Clifton Promise tested positive for reserpine, which is classed as a tranquiliser and is used for long-term sedation in horses.

The tribunal accepted the point of Paget’s request for disqualification, saying: “… a ruling on the automatic disqualification from the Event in advance of a full hearing was of importance for the reputation and integrity of the sport …”.

The FEI Tribunal said it invited the FEI to comment on Paget’s request before making a ruling. The FEI had responded that, given the circumstances, and in particular Paget’s acceptance of the rule violation, it did not have any objection to the disqualification being dealt with early.

The June 3 date of the full hearing will result in Paget sitting out many of the major northern hemisphere events.

Early last month, after discussion among the equestrian community, the FEI moved to clarified its procedures over the length of time that anti-doping cases may take to prosecute.

“It is the FEI’s role to ensure the full integrity of competition and fair play, while at the same time ensuring that the rights of the athlete are fully protected,” FEI Secretary General Ingmar De Vos said.

“As an international governing body, the FEI cannot allow that athletes would ever be condemned or sanctioned without having the proper opportunities to defend themselves. It is of course regrettable, on every level, whenever there is a positive finding, but the FEI has to follow due process in the interest of all parties involved.”

Following the confirmation of a positive sample, it is the FEI’s duty to prove to the tribunal that there has been a violation of the Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations. A positive finding is simply the start of the process.

Andrew NIcholson and Jonathan Paget swap notes
Andrew NIcholson and Jonathan Paget at the Burghley Horse Trials last year. © Horsesports Photographic

In the event of a provisional suspension being imposed following a positive finding, the Person Responsible (PR) can apply at any time for a preliminary hearing to request lifting of the provisional suspension.

The PR has the right to contest the positive finding, including challenging the sample collection and analysis procedures to the tribunal. The PR also has the right to provide an explanation for the presence of the prohibited substance in order to reduce or eliminate the applicable sanction.

The finding whether there has been a rule violation can  only be made once the case has been heard by the tribunal. It is only when the tribunal confirms in its final decision that there is a rule violation that the automatic disqualification from the competition can be applied. Other sanctions may also be imposed by the tribunal.

The FEI said it was a signatory to the Word Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code and respected the agency’s principles, which include the right to a fair hearing. “All parties involved have to be given time to prepare their submissions in order to properly defend themselves. Signatories to WADA’s code apply the same principles, and sports involving animals have to be consistent with the WADA code.”

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