Showjumper suspended after horse tests positive for banned substances

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© Al Crook
© Al Crook

A showjumper from the United Arab Emirates has been suspended and fined after his mount tested positive for the painkiller propoxyphene and a related substance.

Mohammad Shafi H Al Rumaithi had jumped Royal des Fontaines at the two-star jumping competition in Ghantoot, in the UAE, from October 30 to November 1.

The horse subsequently returned positive urine and blood tests for the banned substance propoxyphene and a positive urine test for the drug’s metabolite, norpropoxyphene. Propoxyphene and norpropoxyphene are opiate painkillers.

The FEI Tribunal, comprising Jane Mulcahy, Henrik Arle and Randi Haukebo, imposed a 24-month suspension and fined Al Rumaithi 1000 Swiss Francs. He was also ordered to pay 1000 Swiss Francs towards the cost of the judicial procedure.

The tribunal also imposed a 24-month suspension on Juma Mohamed Khamees Alromaithi, the owner of Royal des Fontaines, following his admission that he ordered that Fustex – an Argentinian product which he later discovered contained propoxyphene – be given to the horse. He was also fined 2000 Swiss Francs and costs of 1000 Swiss Francs.

A preliminary hearing took place late in 2014 in which Al Rumaithi explained that, following an investigation, he had learned that a groom – on order of the owner of the horse – had injected Fustex into the horse in order to strengthen it for the season.

Al Rumaithi said he had ridden Royal des Fontaines only at the event and had not had anything to do with his preparation beforehand.

He said he had asked the new owner whether Royal des Fontaines had been given any medication and the new owner said the horse had not.

Al Rumaithi said he had competed at national and international level since 1997, and his reputation with regards to anti-doping rules had been impeccable.

Alromaithi, of the UAE, confirmed to the tribunal on January 6 this year that he had been the owner of Royal des Fontaines since the beginning of February 2014.

He explained that, since he had felt that the horse had been tired, almost a year ago he had bought a product called Fustex from a Dr Mahmoud, who had worked (but no longer worked) in the Fares AI-Khaleej Shop.

He said Mahmoud had not informed him that the product was “illegal”.

fustexAt the time of the jumping event he had ordered that Royal des Fontaines be injected with Fustex. He had not told Al Rumaithi about it.

Alromaithi said he had been very surprised to learn about the positive finding. He went on to say that the case was entirely his own fault.

A product leaflet for Fustex was given to the tribunal which did not indicate the presence of propoxyphene.

As a result of the evidence given, Alromaithi, as support personnel for the horse, was provisionally suspended for an alleged violation of the Equine Anti-Doping Rules.

The FEI, in its submissions, said the presence of the banned substances was not disputed.

It accepted that the rider had proven, on the balance of probability, how the propoxyphene and norpropoxyphene had entered the horse’s system.

The FEI noted that a previous positive case had established that Fustex may contain propoxyphene or stanozolol, even through they were not listed on the product leaflet as ingredients.

However, the FEI submitted that the rider had not established that he bore no significant fault or negligence in the case.

Al Rumaithi, it said, had only inquired of Alromaithi whether the horse had been given any prohibited substances. A simple check with the horse’s owner was not sufficient for the rider to comply with his obligation to ensure that the horse had not taken any prohibited substances, the FEI said.

The FEI further argued that he should, for example, have asked for a clear veterinary record of the horse, and a review of the FEI Medication Logbook.

Similarly, Alromaithi had not established that he bore no significant fault or regligence for his involvement in the case as an owner. He had, the FEI said, simply relied on the information about the product provided by the person who sold it to him.

He had made investigations into the product only after the case at hand had arisen. Even then, it seemed that he had simply read the list of ingredients, which was not sufficient.

In the opinion of the FEI, Alromaithi should at least have double-checked the product with a qualified veterinarian, and should have researched it on the internet.

Moreover, according to his own statement, he had clearly intended to enhance the horse’s performance. Hence, he had used a product on the horse which he did not know, apparently without having read the list of ingredients, and simply relied on the fact that the seller had not mentioned that it contained prohibited substances.

The FEI said, in its view, the owner bore a high level of fault for the rule violation.

The tribunal, in its decision, said the presence of propoxyphene and its metabolite was not disputed.

It found that a breach of the anti-doping rules had been established by the evidence.

The tribunal ruled that Fustex was likely to be the source of the substance, citing a previous case in which a horse given the product had similarly tested positive.

However, the rider had not established that he bore no significant fault or negligence. The rider, it ruled, should have requested the medical and nutritional records of the horse. “A mere verbal inquiry of Mr Alromaithi is insufficient,” it said.

The rider should have taken personal responsibility for ensuring that the horse was free of banned substances, for example asking the groom whether he was aware of any medications administered to the horse.

On that basis, he was not entitled to any reduction in the otherwise applicable sanction.

Similarly, Alromaithi was found to be at fault in performing his duties as owner, having simply relied on the information about Fustex provided to him when be bought it, without checking the ingredients of the product before using it.

He should have consulted a veterinarian regarding the ingredients and whether the product might contain any prohibited substances.

“The tribunal is of the opinion that in the case at hand Mr Alromaithi should have been aware of the potential dangers of the product by simply inquiring with his national federation, since it had been known to them that the product might potentially contain propoxyphene.

“Even searching for Fustex on the internet would have revealed the previous positive propoxyphene case where a horse had been administered the same product.”

The tribunal said it expected riders and owners to contact manufacturers of products before using them since it was ultimately their responsibility to choose trustworthy nutritional supplements and medications for their horses.

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