Rider from Bahrain suspended and fined over endurance horse’s positive drug test

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A rider from Bahrain has been suspended from competition for six months and fined 2000 Swiss francs after his endurance mount tested positive to five substances not permitted under FEI equine anti-doping rules.

The Bahrain-registered horse Ultreia Larzac, ridden by Othman Abduljaleel Al Awadhi, competed in the CEI2* 120km ride at the Bahrain International Endurance Village, Sakhir, on January 14 this year.

The horse was selected for drug testing. The blood sample revealed the presence of caffeine, theophylline, phenylbutazone, oxyphenbutazone, and dexamethasone.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. Theophylline is used to open airways in the treatment of respiratory disease. Phenylbutazone and its metabolic byproduct oxyphenbutazone are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs with painkilling effects. Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid drug with anti-inflammatory effects.

On February 19, Bahrain’s national federation emailed the tribunal to advise that Al Awadhi admitted the violation and waived the right to a hearing.

Three months later, Al Awadhi provided an explanation for the positive test, saying that a week before the race the horse had become dehydrated after a long training session. The mare was twice treated by a veterinarian with Novacoc Forte fluid − seven days and three days before the race in question. Al Awadhi had not been aware the product contained caffeine.

Lameness, he said, was also suspected and the horse was injected with phenylarthrite seven days before the race.

The FEI said it looked into the treatment given to the horse. It said the medications described provided a plausible explanation of the positive finding for all substances except for the corticosteroid dexamethasone.

It said that Al Awadhi had not provided any evidence in order to establish No (Significant) Fault or Negligence for the rule violation. That being the case, there was no reason to reduce or eliminate the period of ineligibility to be imposed on him.

It added: “If a horse needed to be treated for dehydration and lameness close to an event, such horse was not fit to compete.”

Jane Mulcahy QC, sitting as a one-member panel, said she took note of Al Awadhi’s explanation, but noted that the medications described had accounted for only four of the five substances found in the horse’s blood.

“No explanation has been provided regarding the dexamethasone found in the horse’s system.”

That meant Al Awadhi had failed to establish, on a balance of the probabilities, how all the substances had entered the horse’s system.

It was, she said, the personal duty of the rider to ensure that no prohibited substances were present in the horse’s system during an event.

Al Awadhi had provided no information or evidence on whether any procedures were in place to fulfill this duty, or whether he made any inquiry with regard to medications given to the horse before competing in the race.

“Riders have to actively inquire whether horses have been treated with any prohibited substances prior to competing in an event by, for example, requesting the medication logbook of the horses, or by putting other precautions in place.”

Mulcahy disqualified the horse and rider from the competition and imposed a six-month suspension. Al Awadhi will get credit for the provisional suspension served, meaning he can return to competition on August 8.

He was fined 2000 Swiss francs and ordered to contribute 1000 Swiss francs to the cost of the judicial procedure.

The decision can be read here

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