Suspension, fine over positive drug test in horse at major South American event

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File image. © Al Crook

A Guatemalan rider whose horse tested positive for a banned substance at the Central America and Caribbean Games last year has been suspended for 12 months and fined 3000 Swiss francs by the FEI Tribunal.

The rider, Alvaro Enrique Tejada Arriola, was also ordered to contribute 2000 francs towards the cost of the proceedings.

Arriola had competed Dolly Palo Blanco in jumping at the Games in Bogota, Colombia, late in July.

Blood and urine samples taken from the horse on July 29 subsequently tested positive for the banned substance diisopropylamine.

Diisopropylamine is a vasodilator used in the treatment of peripheral and cerebral vascular disorders.

The horse had also been selected for testing three days earlier, with those samples returning negative.

It emerged that Dolly Palo Blanco had been given a nutraceutical product by a veterinarian in the intervening days because the horse was showing signs of tiredness because of the high altitude at which the event was held.

Evidence was given that the horse received a product Top B15+3, registered as a pharmaceutical product in Mexico.

The website of the manufacturer, Laboratoros Tornel, S.A., listed it as a restorative nutraceutical. The leaflet described it as an “invigorating coadjuvant to the restoration of nursing animals … injectable solution …”

The product was listed as containing Sodium pangamate (Vit. B15).

Expert evidence emerged that Vitamin B15 is known as Pangamic acid. It is not a real vitamin and there can be variations with the chemical structure. There is a common and uncommon form, with the latter capable of forming diisopropylamine – the banned substance at the centre of the case.

A veterinarian, Dr Mariajose Camas Orantes, had been working with the rider in the lead-up to the event.

She had given the horse an oral dose of Top B15+3 in a sweet syrup and recorded it in her medication logbook. The dose had been given between the first and second rounds of the competition on July 29.

She had first checked the ingredients against the FEI list, and had consulted an accredited colleague who concurred that it was OK for use.

She did not know what further checks she could have performed to ensure the safety of the product; all checks she performed suggested that the product was permissible. She had never heard of diisopropylamine at the time she used the product.

Arriola had not been present during administration, and neither had she asked specific permission from him to administer the product, which was against their common practice. Arriola’s groom was present at the time.

Arriola sought to have the case dismissed, arguing that he had acted without fault or negligence. Furthermore, he did not know or suspect, and could not reasonably have known or suspected even with the exercise of utmost caution, that Dr Camas would, without permission, breach their long-established protocol and administer the product.

The FEI said it accepted that Arriola had provided plausible information on how diisopropylamine came to be in the horse’s system.

The FEI took the view that any veterinarian using a substance being a supplement without exactly knowing what it is, imported from Mexico, for the first time on the day of competition, during an important event, was highly at fault.

Arriola was responsible for choosing his veterinarian and the no-fault argument cannot apply only because another person administered the banned substance to the horse. It had, in this case, been used by one of Arriola’s support personnel.

However, the FEI agreed that Arriola had shown that he was not at significant fault. It proposed that an 18-month ban was appropriate in the circumstances.

Henrik Arle, sitting as a one-member tribunal, said he accepted that Arriola had satisfactorily explained how the positive test came about.

He said he accepted that Arriola’s delegation to Dr Camas was reasonable. However, Arriola failed to supervise and control the actions of Dr Camas. The absence of checks on whether Dr Camas was acting properly and as agreed represented fault by Arriola, it ruled.

Arle ruled, in the circumstances, that a 12-month suspension was proportionate.

“In this respect, the tribunal cannot discount the level and importance of the event, and the responsibilities the Person Responsible had not only towards himself, but also towards his team.”

Arriola will be eligible to compete again from July 28 this year.

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