Groom’s error led to endurance horse’s positive drug test, tribunal told

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A mistake by a groom was behind a failed drug test in an endurance horse who competed in an 80km race in the United Arab Emirates last February, the FEI Tribunal was told.

The horse Maximal Phoenix Sterling was ridden by Aqal Muhammad Said Muhammad in the CEI1* event at Bou Thib in mid-February.

The horse subsequently tested positive for dexamethasone and betamethasone, which are corticosteroids with anti-inflammatory effects.

Both are classified as Controlled Medications under the FEI anti-doping rules. The horse had no dispensation for the drugs, which would have required a valid Veterinary Form.

Said Muhammad, who is from Pakistan but lists his administering national federation as the UAE, was disqualified by the tribunal from competing for six months and fined 2500 Swiss francs over the drug violation.

On May 10 this year, the owner of the horse had submitted an explanation for the positive finding: “We accept this result. Unfortunately, we were not aware of it at the time of the endurance ride, but after investigation we have found out that it had happened by mistake among one of the grooms.”

Said Muhammad did not personally provide any explanation for the positive finding.

The FEI, in its tribunal submission, said no elimination or reduction in the period of disqualification in the case could apply due to Said Muhammad’s “inactiveness” in providing any explanation of the circumstances that led to the violation.

The FEI described the owner’s explanation as deficient.

Tribunal member Dr Armand Leone, who considered the case, said he took note of the owner’s explanation for the positive finding, namely that a groom had made a mistake.

“However, neither the owner or the Person Responsible (Said Muhammad) provided any evidence in this regard.”

In the circumstances, the tribunal was unable to evaluate the degree of fault for the rule violation.

Said Muhammad was banned from competing for six months. He is already serving a provisional suspension, meaning he will be eligible to compete from September 28 this year.

He was fined 2500 Swiss francs and ordered to pay 1500 francs towards the costs of the tribunal procedure.

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