Fine, suspension over controlled medication breach in showjumping horse

File image. © Cymon Taylor

A Belgium-registered rider received a six-month suspension and was fined 1500 Swiss francs over a controlled medication violation in a showjumping horse.

Sybren De Pre had entered Zachary De Lion Z in a CSI2* jumping competition in  Zuidwolde, in The Netherlands, from July 13 to 16 last year.

A blood sample taken from the horse during the event tested positive for meloxicam, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug with painkilling properties.

It is classified as a controlled medication under the FEI’s Equine Prohibited Substances List, which gave rise to the case.

De Pre explained to the tribunal in written submissions that the horse was showing signs of a possible colic when they arrived on July 12, ahead of the event.

“We decided to go to the sport secretariat of the organising committee to request a vet,” he explained, with a vet arriving 30 minutes later.

Zachary De Lion Z received injections containing buscopan and metacam from the vet.

“We asked the vet if this treatment was positive and the vet checked her list and could not find busopan or metacam on the list and told us that this was no doping, so we could participate with this horse. She also mentioned that the horse would not jump any better because of the medicines.

“The vet also noted that she used buscopan and metacam on the visiting form and on the invoice so this was not a matter of trying to cheat but a matter of curing a horse that was ill.”

Three days later, there was an FEI vet check of the horse. After De Pre presented the visiting form from the vet, it was noticed that the original vet had not been FEI-approved.

De Pre had been under the impression she was, given he had approached an organising committee official to summon a vet.

The FEI vet checked both medicines on the visiting form and the only thing he noted was that buscopan could create a problem depending on if it was a short or long-term working medicine.

The original vet had told him it was a short-acting medicine, “and after I explained this to the FEI vet everything was OK.”

“If one or both of the medicines where not OK why could we continue the day after with our horse?

“Furthermore, I would like to say that the only thing that we as owner/rider could do in this case was verifying that the horse was not positive by means of asking the vet. If the vet tells me that this is no doping then I should have faith in the system and continue …”

The FEI, in its submission, said the rider had a personal duty to ensure that no controlled medications were present in the horse’s system during an event without a valid veterinary form.

The fact that the veterinarian who treated the horse was not FEI-approved, or the fact that the veterinarian’s opinion regarding the “risk of testing positive” might not have been correct, did not bear significant importance in assessing the rider’s degree of fault or negligence, it submitted.

The rider, it said, had a responsibility to know, understand, and follow the anti-doping and controlled medication rules, as well as the relevant veterinary regulations.

The rider should have known, since it was his personal duty, that he must obtain a Veterinary Form 1 after the horse was treated for a colic, the FEI said.

The questionable opinion of the treating veterinarian did not diminish the level of the rider’s fault or negligence, since it was the rider’s personal duty to ensure that no controlled medication was present in the horse’s body during an event without a valid veterinary form.

“The relevant rules stipulated that the administration of any substance to a horse during an event via means of injection, as in the present case, required the appropriate veterinary form, regardless of whether or not the substance given to the horse was listed on the FEI List.”

Tribunal member Cesar Torrente, sitting as a one-member panel, said while it was unfortunate that the veterinarian treating the horse provided inaccurate information with regard to the prohibition of the medications injected, it also found that the rider’s duty of care went beyond merely relying on information received by veterinarians.

“There is also a universal legal principle holding that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely because he was unaware of its content.”

He said De Pre would have been expected to conduct his own search in respect of the drugs to confirm whether the substances injected were prohibited during an event.

He imposed a six-month suspension, from the date of the decision, meaning De Pre will not be able to compete until April 11 next year.

He imposed a fine of 1500 Swiss francs and ordered him to contribute 1500 francs towards the cost of the judicial procedure.

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