Homeopathic remedies in medicine bottle sees Endurance horse fail drug test

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A Belgian Endurance rider’s slip-up in putting homeopathic remedies for her horse in an empty Tramadol bottle has resulted in a 15-month suspension from the FEI Tribunal.

The tribunal has released final decisions on two banned substances cases in Jumping and one in Endurance, with the endurance rider receiving the harshest sanction – the 15-month suspension and a fine of 2500 Swiss francs.

The Endurance case related to the testing of the horse Houkoumi G, ridden by the Evelyne Stoffel at the CEI1* 100 in Virton, Belgium, on September 4, 2016.

The horse tested positive for the opioid analgesic O-Desmethyl-Tramadol, used in humans for the control of moderate to severe pain. It is classified as a banned substance under the FEI Equine Prohibited Substances List.

The FEI Tribunal, comprising Erik Elstad, Chris Hodson and Jane Mulcahy, was told by a veterinarian that the horse had not been prescribed the drug. However, a doctor provided evidence that Ms Stoffel’s husband had been prescribed Tramadol to treat chronic pain following a serious car accident in 1987.

Stoffel told tribunal members that she had been a horsewoman for more than 25 years and had ridden endurance since 1998 for her own enjoyment, not to sell horses.

She explained that she regularly used homeopathic remedies for herself and her horses. She had made a mix of two such remedies and put it in an empty bottle for horse use. She had used an empty Tramadol bottle, which had a handy dropper on top, without realising the possible consequences.

She said that if she had only realised that some Tramadol residue could have remained in the bottle, she would never have used it. She perfectly understood that what she considered as empty, was not considered as such for a laboratory.

The tribunal said that Stoffel, by using the empty Tramadol bottle, effectively accepted the risk that the empty bottle could still have some residues of Tramadol in it, even more so if no cleaning of the bottle had been done, which seemed to be the situation in the case at hand.

However, when considering all the circumstances, her fault was not significant, it said.

It imposed the suspension, seven months of which had already been served. She was fined 2500 Swiss francs and ordered to contribute 1000 Swiss francs towards legal costs. The full decision can be read here.

Hair regrowth product likely source

The first of the jumping cases related to the horse Felix Van De Mispelaere, ridden by South Africa-registered rider Jonathan Clarke to a win in a class at a CSI1*-W event in Polokwane, in South Africa, late in August 2015.

Samples taken on August 29 from the horse tested positive for the vasodilator Minoxidil. It is used for the treatment of high blood pressure and is classified as a banned substance under the FEI Equine Prohibited Substances List.

Clarke is a professional rider employed by a Mr and Ms Slade to ride their horses at competitions, including Felix Van De Mispelaere.

The tribunal, again comprising Hodson, Elstad and Mulcahy, heard that all supplements given to the horse were first checked with the producer and with a consulting veterinarian to check for compliance with FEI rules.

However, the tribunal was told that Mr Slade had used a hair growth product Regaine since 1999, and in more recent years a generic version called “Minoxidil 5%”. Both contained Minoxidil.

Mr Slade applied it twice daily to his scalp, with five or six sprays each time. He said that, once dried, Minoxidil had a sticky texture which remained on the scalp until washed off. If it came into contact with moisture, such as sweat, it could easily be transferred on to his hands if he touched his scalp.

It had never occurred to him that the use of the product could in any way be prejudicial to their horses.

He believed that the Minoxidil found in the horse’s sample had been contamination which had inadvertently come from him.

Mr Slade added that Clarke had not been aware that he used Minoxidil.

Expert evidence was given that the dose applied to Mr Slade’s scalp was 500,000 times more than the amount that would be need to be present in the horse’s urine for it to test positive.

The tribunal said it accepted that Clarke could not have suspected or reasonably have known, even with the exercise of utmost caution, that the product used by Mr Slade – of which he had no knowledge – could ultimately have got into the horse’s urine sample.

As a consequence, it found that while there had been a rule violation, Clarke bore no fault for it.

Clarke, it noted, had served an eight-month suspension. It ruled that no further suspension should be imposed. It imposed no sanctions, but ordered that the horse’s owners pay 1000 Swiss francs towards the cost of the case.

“Since the equine anti-doping rules have been violated, and for reasons of ensuring a level playing field, even though [Clarke] bore no fault for the rule violation, the tribunal disqualifies the … combination from the competition and the entire event, and all medals, points and prize money won must be forfeited.”

The full tribunal decision can be read here.

Event in Mexico

The second jumping case involved the horse La Petite Fleur 6, ridden by Mexico-registered rider Andres Arozarena at the CSI4* in Coapexpan, Mexico, in mid-October 20116.

Samples taken from the horse tested positive for the anti-inflammatory drug Piroxicam, used in the treatment of rheumatic disorders. It is a banned substance under the FEI Equine Prohibited Substances List.

Arozarena, an amateur rider, said he had been jumping for 10 years and that he would never do anything that would affect the welfare of horses.

He said he had no knowledge of these types of medications or their use. He did not know how it came to be in the horse’s system, but wondered whether contamination of his horse’s stall or feeder by a previous user might have been responsible.

The substance, he had learned, had an effect for 7-12 days, so contamination could have occurred well before the event.

The FEI described the rider’s explanations as mere speculations with no supporting evidence. He had not established how the Piroxicam had entered the horse’s system, it said.

The tribunal, with Chris Hodson sitting as a one-member panel, imposed a six-month suspension on the rider. The period of provisional suspension, effective from December 20 last year, was credited against the period of ineligibility imposed in the decision, meaning Arozarena’s suspension lifted on June 19 this year.

He was also fined 2000 Swiss francs and ordered to contribute 1000 Swiss francs towards legal costs.

In his decision, Hodson said Arozarena had not established how the drug entered the horse’s system. It said no reduction or elimination of the otherwise applicable period of ineligibility was therefore warranted. The full decision can be read here.

Athletes have 21 days to appeal decisions to the Court of Arbitration for Sport from the date of notification.

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