Medications given to dressage horse sees rider suspended for six months

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A Belarusian dressage rider who injected her mount after withdrawing it from a World Cup competition has been suspended after the horse subsequently failed a drug test.

Ala Nikanorava took Vaksayd to the World Cup dressage series competition in Moscow, Russia, held in late September last year.

The horse subsequently tested positive for phenylbutazone, oxyphenbutazone and dexamethasone, all listed as controlled medications under the FEI’s anti-doping rules.

Phenylbutazone is an anti-inflammatory drug with painkilling effects and oxyphenbutazone is a metabolite byproduct of the drug. Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid with an anti-inflammatory effect.

Nikanorava explained to the FEI Tribunal that Vaksayd belonged to the Mogilev Region Olympic Riding and Pentathlon Center, which was a state-owned stable.

She had been training and competing with the horse since February last year.

Vaksayd has some respiratory problems and could develop strong, sudden coughing, which was normally cured with some inhalation treatment consisting of several herbs.

Before the event, the horse was in good condition. However, after the long journey from Minsk to Moscow, and after passing the vet inspection, the horse started having respiratory problems during the warm-up on September 29.

She decided to withdraw Vaksayd from the competition for welfare reasons and told the steward in the warm-up arena of her decision.

She walked the horse for 10 to 15 minutes at the venue and returned to her box, where she found the horse had an elevated temperature.

Given the fever and the horse’s strong cough, she decided to inject Vaksayd with dexamethasone and phenylbutazone to relieve the problem.

She did not tell the treating veterinarian nor the chef d’equipe of her team about the injections.

Later that same day, she was told that the horse had been selected for drug testing.

She did not tell the testing officers about the injections, and no controlled medications were recorded on the FEI Medication Control Form.

Nikanorava said she realized that she had violated treatment procedures for the horse only after the testing. She apologized and told the tribunal she regretted that she had not told the treating veterinarian at the event that Vaksayd had received treatment.

She asked the tribunal to impose no fine or costs, as Belarus had low incomes and her salary was limited.

The FEI submitted that Nikanorava had failed in her duty to obtain the appropriate veterinary form, and noted that the horse’s condition had not been assessed by the Veterinary Commission or veterinary delegate.

She should have known that it was her personal duty to obtain a veterinary form before treating the horse.

Furthermore, the treatment was not performed in the treatment box by a permitted treating veterinarian, as required under the rules.

The FEI found that the act of injecting a horse without a veterinarian or similar degree to be a serious aggravating circumstance. Nikanorava, it argued, had put the horse’s health at risk by performing a treatment without being officially certified to be able to do that correctly.

In a further submission, Nikanorava explained that at the time of the sampling she had not been aware of the relevant rules. However, she was now familiar with those rules, and would not make the same mistake again. Her only concern at the time was for the horse.

Tribunal member Henrik Arle, sitting as a one-member panel, found that Nikanorava had committed a drug rule violation, but had done so in a distressed situation, being concerned about the health of her horse.

He imposed a six-month disqualification. Arle imposed no fine, and did not order Nikanorava to contribute anything toward the costs of the case.

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