Qatari endurance rider Nasser Khalifa N.J. Al Thani has received a 27-month suspension after the horse he rode in a 120km endurance race tested positive for four substances which breached FEI drug rules.
Al Thani, who was under 18 when his race entry was submitted, rode Australian-bred Brookleigh Caspar in the 120km one-star Endurance competition at Mesaieed in Doha.
Urine and blood samples taken from the horse that day for drug testing came back positive for the banned substance Heptaminol and controlled medications Phenylbutazone, Meloxicam and Dexamethasone.
Heptaminol is a stimulant that dilates blood vessels. Phenylbutazone and Meloxicam are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used for pain relief, and Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid with an anti-inflammatory effect.
Controlled medications are substances that are regularly used to treat horses, but which are not allowed in competition in order to maintain a level playing field. Banned substances should never be found in the horse.
The FEI Tribunal, comprising Pierre Ketterer, Henrik Arle and Armand Leone, imposed the 27-month ban, effective from June 18. Al Thani was also fined 5000 Swiss francs and ordered to contribute 2000 Swiss francs toward the costs of the judicial action.
Al Thani, in a written explanation to the tribunal, said he had had the horse for six months prior to the race. He explained that no special treatment by a veterinarian had been provided to the horse in the six months prior to the event.
Further, no substances had been administered to the horse in the year prior to the event.
However, he said that, 10 days before the race, four injections had been given to the horse, and that it had been a mistake by him to allow the injections.
He said he had tried to follow the FEI rules, and that he would ensure that a similar incident would not happen again.
The trainer of the horse, Bhiv Singh Rajput, said in a statement that he did not know when the treatment had been given, and that the injections had been given in his absence and without his permission.
Al Thani was later invited to provide more detail, especially in respect of the four injections, and he was invited to present a copy of the FEI medication logbook for the horse.
Subsequently, Rajput and Al Thani submitted a joint statement.
They explained that they had been given two little bottles containing products, one of 25ml and the other one of 50ml, by an individual from the United Arab Emirates, whose name they provided.
They said he had told them to give an injection to the horse two days prior to the event in order to “give him more power”, and that the products were legal.
They said they had trusted him, and had not known what was in the bottles.
Accordingly, two days before the event, a groom had given the injections to the horse. However, the treatment had not been recorded in the FEI medication logbook.
The tribunal noted that statements provided by Al Thani contained contradictory explanations, in
particular as regards the number of injections and the timing of administration.
“The tribunal therefore finds that no clear and convincing evidence has been provided with regards to the source of the Heptaminol, Phenylbutazone, Meloxicam and Dexamethasone.”
Al Thani had not established that the products allegedly administered to the horse contained the prohibited substances detected in the horse’s sample.
Furthermore, no further evidence – other than Al Thani’s and Rajput’s word – regarding any alleged injections to the horse by the groom had been provided.
“This is even more the case as [the groom] himself has not confirmed such administration(s) by any means, and as such treatments have not been recorded in the FEI medication logbook.
“Moreover, the tribunal holds that none of the explanations provided with regards to timing and dose allegedly administered are neither clear nor convincing, as no information with regards to the exact dose and timing of administration(s) has been submitted.”
The tribunal ruled that Al Thani had not established, on the balance of probabilities, how the prohibited substances had entered the horse’s system and, accordingly, there was no basis for the tribunal to eliminate or reduce the otherwise applicable sanctions available under the rules.
The presence of multiple substances was an aggravating factor, the tribunal said, which raised welfare
concerns around the horse.
It imposed the suspension and fine. Al Thani has been provisionally suspended since June 11 last year and that will be credited against the imposed suspension.
He has 30 days to appeal.
One of his statements said that he no longer used Rajput as the trainer of his horses.
The full tribunal decision can be read here.