A mixing error by a respected feedmill has been blamed for a series of positive drug findings among endurance horses in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
A final decision has been issued by the FEI Tribunal in respect of the cases, in which the FEI and the riders and trainers involved agreed a settlement over the breaches. The tribunal signed off on the agreement.
The cases involved seven endurance riders, three trainers and nine horses across three different stables, competing in endurance events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai between November 26 last year and January 14 this year.
Unusually, the suspensions applied in the cases – all of which have been served – were dated from when the samples were taken, not from the date when the positive results were notified.
Seven of the horses returned positive tests for the controlled medication caffeine and its metabolic byproducts theobromine, theophylline and paraxanthine. Paraxanthine was a banned substance at the time the horses were tested. It is set to be reclassified as a controlled medication from January 1, which is why the FEI agreed to lesser sanctions in the agreement.
The positive test result for the eighth horse was for caffeine only.
The ninth horse tested positive not only for caffeine, theobromine, paraxanthine and theophylline, but also for the controlled medication flumetasone, a corticosteroid to treat skin disease.
“The FEI accepts that the circumstances of the cases to be exceptional on the basis that the banned substance paraxanthine will be considered to be only a controlled medication rule violation in 2018,” explained FEI legal director Mikael Rentsch.
The FEI Tribunal imposed two-month suspensions on the athletes and trainers except in the case involving flumetasone, in which a six-month suspension was applied. Fines of 1500 Swiss Francs were imposed, with each also required to contribute 1000 francs towards legal costs.
The two-month bans were imposed on the following riders, all from the UAE: Saeed Sultan Shames Al Maamri, Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum, Abdulla Ghanim Al Marri, Saif Ahmed Al Mozroui and Saeed Ahmad Jaber Al Harbi, as well as trainers Mohd Ahmed Ali Al Subose, Ismail Mohd and Khalifa Ghanim Al Marri. Amy Louise McAuley, of Ireland, also received a two-month suspension.
Sheikh Hamed Dalmook Al Maktoum received a six-month suspension, because it was his mount which had also tested positive for flumetasone. It meant he was unable to compete from the date the sample was collected (December, 17, 2016) until June 16 this year. It emerged that horse received the drug in a joint injection from a veterinarian in treatment given well in advance of competition.
The various breaches involved the horses Rafik De Kerpont, Mraseel, Castlebar Lightning, Intisaar, Salam Banquetol, Preume De Paute, Tom Jones TE, Aspenview Amir, and Tim Ami.
Regarding the caffeine, an investigation confirmed that in September 2016, the head of Zabeel Feedmill was asked by the management of three stables, MRM Stables, F3 Stables and M7 Stables, to produce a supplement mix that would contain five commercially available products.
After preparation, it was distributed to the stables that ordered it.
The mix came under scrutiny after the three stables found they had horses returning positive test results. It came to light that another substance had been accidentally added to the mix. It was a product called Super Elixir, usually used for humans, and it contained caffeine.
Zabeel Feedmill was described as the most renowned feed producer and supplier in the region. For more than 30 years it has been supplying feed, hay and supplements to more than 2000 flat racing horses, 3000 endurance horses and 5000 racing camels, all of whom are subject to extensive forensic tests.
Until now, it had never been accused in connection with doping violations. It had its own quality control procedures and frequently got its feeds tested.
The FEI said the parties had provided a plausible account of how the caffine came to be given to the horses, and it was satisfied that the case involved No Significant Fault or Negligence on the part of the riders and trainers.
The riders and trainers could not reasonably have suspected that the supplement feed mix given to the horses was contaminated at the feed mill. The FEI said the circumstances were unfortunate and could not have been foreseen.
The FEI Tribunal, comprising Laurent Niddam, Henrik Arle and Erik Elstad, found no grounds to object to the terms of the agreement between the riders, trainers and FEI, adding that its members were satisfied it constituted a bona fide settlement.
The decision can be read here.