The horses that finished first and second at the CEI1* endurance race at Doha, Qatar, on April 22 have tested positive for a banned substance, the FEI has announced.
Samples taken at the event from the winning horse Centurion, ridden by Abdulla Mubarak Rashed Al Khaili, and Sur (Mabrouk), ridden to second place by Mohd Butti Ghemran Al Qubaisi, were positive for human Erythropoietin (EPO).
EPO is a banned substance under the FEI’s Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations. It is a peptide hormone that is produced naturally in the body. It is released from the kidneys and acts on the bone marrow to stimulate red blood cell production. An increase in red blood cells improves the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry to the body’s muscles.
Under World Anti-Doping Agency rules, EPO has been banned as a performance-enhancing substance for human athletes since the early 1990s, but a reliable testing method was not in place until 2000.
EPO has been banned for equine use under the FEI’s anti-doping regulations since 2010.
“EPO is well known in human endurance sports in which an increased number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells is an advantage, but the substance has little benefit in equestrian sport and this is the first time we have seen FEI horses testing positive for EPO,” the FEI’s veterinary director, Göran Akerström, said.
“Horses have a large natural reserve of red blood cells stored in their spleen, and the use of EPO would actually have a negative effect in many horses as the increased level of red blood cells would slow down blood circulation.”
FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said clean sport was a top priority for all governing bodies. “A key part of that is protecting our clean athletes. So we will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that there is no room in our sport for those who attempt to gain a competitive advantage through the use of prohibited substances.”
Both riders, who are UAE registered, have been provisionally suspended from June 2 – the date of notification.
The two horses have also been provisionally suspended for two months.