Three endurance riders and a trainer have received suspensions over drug infractions in Qatar in November last year.
The three horses all tested positive to diisopropylamine, a vasodilator used to treat peripheral and cerebral vascular disorders. It is a banned substance under the FEI’s Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations.
The three riders − Matter Said Khalfan Al Saadi, who is registered in Oman; Gaje Singh Hari Singh, who is registered in India; and Maryam Ahmad S A Al Boinin, who is registered in Qatar − explained to the FEI Tribunal that they had no involvement in the preparation of the horses.
Each received a two-year suspension and were fined 2000 Swiss francs apiece. They were each ordered to contribute 1000 Swiss francs towards legal costs.
The trainer of all three horses, Waleed Said Khalfan Al Saa’di, of Qatar (the brother of Matter Said Khalfan Al Saadi) was suspended for 30 months. The tribunal also fined him 3000 Swiss francs and ordered him to contribute 1500 Swiss francs towards legal costs.
Matter Said Khalfan Al Saadi had ridden Tarifa in a CEI 1* 80km event in Doha on January 7 this year. Singh had ridden R S Nube Blanca in a CEI 2* 120km race in Doha on November 19 last year, with Al Boinin having ridden Aqua Vela in a CEI YJ 1* 90km contest in Doha on the same date.
The tribunal, comprising Chris Hodson QC, Henrik Arle and Erik Elstad, issued three separate decisions to cover the cases.
The riders made written submissions in which they said they did not know how the diisopropylamine entered their respective horse’s system.
They said they had no involvement with the horses’ preparations. They had just competed with the horses as requested by the trainer.
They noted that the trainer – next to the three positive cases at hand – had also had an additional positive case on December 10 last year with the horse Queops De Varneuil involving salicylic acid.
They submitted that they would like to cooperate but they had no idea how the substance entered the horses’ systems.
They said they had never had a positive case before and would have refused to ride the horses had they known they were “doped”. They argued that they were victims, given that that the trainer had four positive cases in three months.
The trainer, Waleed Said Khalfan Al Saa’di, in his submissions to the tribunal, explained that no special food had been given to the horses – only normal food from a local provider.
In the last months, the horses were treated when necessary within the correct detection time with flumetasone for localised inflammation.
He submitted that the diisopropylamine was probably included in a product called Energético Nort that he had given orally to the horses an hour before the rides “to help them to relax and to keep their full power for the ride.”
He said it was his mistake to give the horses the product before the rides. “I don’t have a lot of experience about medicines and specially the ‘Prohibited Substances’,” he told tribunal members.
“I am deeply sorry about this situation and I hope you understand that if I knew that my horses were going to be positive, I [would] have not given this product to three different horses.
“My brother is one of the riders and I hope you can believe that I didn’t want to put him in trouble.”
He also provided a picture of the product box of Energético Nort, including its ingredient list. While the substance diisopropylamine was not listed, the product box lists B15 (0.10 g) as an ingredient.
In a further submission, he again asserted that the product was the source, saying it was the B15, although local vets in Qatar had told him that the product would not result in a positive test.
He continued: “I used a product after it had been prescribed by the veterinarians. They literally said that the product did not contain any drugs, and that it was very beneficial for horses’ health.”
The tribunal said it took note of the trainer’s explanation that the B15 contained in the product was the main substance in diisopropylamine.
“The trainer has however not provided any further explanations/evidence in this respect.
“A quick internet search shows that diisopropylamine dichloroacetate is ‘the active component of many formulations of pangamic acid (trade-named “vitamin B15″)”
The tribunal said it believed that it was more likely than not that the diisopropylamine entered the horses’ systems as explained by the trainer.
However, it was not ultimately relevant whether they had established the source of the substance as the tribunal ruled that the parties had been negligent with their expected duty of care.
The riders, it ruled, cannot be totally discharged from their duties, even when not having been in charge of preparing the horses. It was their duty as competitors to inquire whether their horses were free of prohibited substances, and put measures in place to be assured that they were informed of all medications given to the horses.
“In the cases at hand however none of the [riders] seem to have made any inquiries or put any such measures in place.”
The trainer was found be highly negligent in performing his duties.
“The tribunal takes note that the trainer asserts that he relied on the veterinarians who had ‘found no problem with the horse’s vitamins and food’, including the product. If that is so then the veterinarians were wrong, which is surprising.
“However simply relying on questioning veterinarians is not by itself sufficient to fulfil the trainer’s expected duty of care, at least when checking personally is not difficult and the ingredients listed on the packet indicate a possibility of a banned substance.
“In line with its previous decisions, the tribunal finds that he could reasonably be expected to research the product prior to administering it to the horses on the days of the rides.
“Had he done such research … he would have found out that diisopropylamine dichloroacetate is ‘the active component of many formulations of pangamic acid (trade-named “vitamin B15”)”, and thus that the product contained a Banned Substance.
“The tribunal finds that the trainer seems to have taken on tasks, i.e., handling the medications of several horses, for which he was clearly not prepared; or as he puts it himself, tasks for which he did not have the necessary experience.
“As a result he contributed to at least three, i.e., the cases at hand, and potentially four positive cases, i.e., when counting the Controlled Medication case in addition.
“Accordingly, the tribunal finds that the trainer has acted highly negligently in performing his duties as trainer and support personnel.”