Suspension and fine for endurance rider over horse’s failed drug test


A rider in Saudi Arabia has been suspended for a year and fined 2500 Swiss francs after his mount in a 110km endurance ride last January tested positive for phenylbutazone, oxyphenbutazone, and dexamethasone.

Ibrahim Abdulrahman Alsughayer rode the horse Nashmi Alghzlan in a CEI1* 110km race in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on January 14.

The horse was selected for testing, which revealed the presence of the three substances in the blood. Phenylbutazone and dyphenbutazone – a metabolic byproduct of phenylbutazone – are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs with anti-inflammatory and painkilling effects. Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid drug with anti-inflammatory properties.

All three are classified as controlled medication substances under the FEI Equine Prohibited Substances List.

The rider was provisionally suspended pending the outcome of the case before the FEI Tribunal.

The rider’s brother, Abdullah Abdulrahman Alsughayer, who owns and trains the horse, submitted a written submission explaining what had happened. The submission was also signed by a groom, Mohammed Basir.

Abdullah Alsughayer explained that he was the owner of a private endurance stable with two horses. He and his brother had ridden since they were five years old and liked to participate in endurance.

There were no local equine veterinarians, so any major issues were referred to general veterinarians.

Their groom had been taught how to inject the horses as required for problems that were not serious.

He explained that his brother who rode the horses had no involvement with the preparation of the horses.

Abdullah Alsughayer said he always tried to follow rules to avoid any problems and to respect the welfare of horses.

The Riyadh ride was intended to be an enjoyable one for his brother and to qualify the horse.

Abdullah Alsughayer said he had been shocked by the positive finding and asked the groom about it. The groom explained that on the day of the vet check he had been concerned that the horse appeared weak and off his food, so had decided to treat the animal with “dexaphenylarthrite 20 cc”.

The horse came right after two hours. The groom had thought it was normal to give the medicine.

Abdullah Alsughayer said he had told the groom that he could not give such medications before rides. He said he did not know about the groom’s actions, otherwise he would have withdrawn the horse.

Abdullah Alsughayer argued that, as owner and trainer, it was him who had to take responsibility for the case at hand, and not his brother. He acknowledged that the groom was just an employee who had been worried about the horse.

He said it was also his fault in that he had not educated the groom well on the issues, and that he was a groom not a veterinarian so he could not blame him.

He promised that in the future he would try to be more professional, since he could not let this happen again. He sought the lowest sanction possible.

The FEI, in its submission, said the rider had a personal duty to ensure that breaches of the anti-doping rules did not occur. It cited a case in which the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) had endorsed the rationale behind the FEI’s policy of making the athlete/rider the person responsible in such cases.

That decision stated: “The FEI believes that making the rider the responsible person in this way is necessary to protect the welfare of the horse, and to ensure fair play. It strongly incentivises riders to ensure compliance with the rules, whether by caring for the horse personally or else by entrusting that task only to third parties who are up to the job …”

The FEI, in further submissions, said: “Further, conclusions to be drawn from the case law were that the duty of care was very high and that this duty of care was non-delegable. But also that persons responsible were responsible for their support personnel and the medical treatments given to their horses by their veterinarians, trainers or grooms.”

It said the rider had not provided any evidence to establish no (significant) fault or negligence for the rule violation. It noted that since it was the rider’s second violation he could not be fully unaware of the rules and consequences of a positive finding and should have paid extra attention to the people working with the horses he rode at competitions.

“The FEI expected even more from a person who has already committed a violation.”

It continued: “The FEI found it very worrying that a groom and not a veterinarian injected a horse without any knowledge of the effects of the substances.”

Chris Hodson, sitting as a one-member tribunal panel, said he was satisfied as to how the substances came to be in the horse’s system.

It was, he said, the rider’s personal duty to ensure that no prohibited substances were present in the horse during an event without a valid veterinary form.

The rider had not provided any information/evidence on whether he had put any procedures in place to fulfill this duty.

“It appears from the account given that the person responsible has taken no action to ensure that proper practices were required at the stable. Furthermore, the person responsible appears to have made no inquiry with regard to medications given to the horse prior to competing in the event.”

Hodson ruled that no (significant) fault or negligence did not apply in the case at hand.

“To the contrary, the tribunal finds that the person responsible has been significantly at fault for the reasons previously outlined.”

He imposed a one-year suspension on the rider. With credit for his provisional suspension, he will be eligible to compete again from February 7, 2018.

He fined him 2500 Swiss francs and ordered him to contribute 1000 Swiss francs towards the cost of the judicial procedure.

The decision can be read here

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