Hay supplied through the organisers of a showjumping competition in Spain early this year was behind two failed drug tests in horses, the FEI Tribunal has ruled.
The tribunal has released its decisions in two cases arising from the CSI2* competition held in Carmona from February 7 to 10.
Slovenian rider Gaj Riossa, riding Famorku, and Finnish rider Ville Peltokoski, aboard For Fun, were found to bear no fault or negligence over their mounts testing positive for the banned substance synephrine.
Synephrine is a stimulant that causes blood vessels to constrict, increases heart rate, and is used as a weight-loss aid in humans.
The circumstances of both cases were broadly the same.
The FEI and riders provided the tribunal with written agreements outlining the agreed circumstances of their cases, with the world governing body accepting that the two men were not at fault for the drugs breaches.
The FEI agreed that no sanctions should be imposed against them.
FEI tribunal member Cesar Torrente, sitting as a one-member panel in both cases, ratified the two agreements.
Riossa had fed hay provided through the organiser throughout the event. He said he had no choice but to buy the hay from the organiser since he was participating with 11 horses and it would have been logistically impossible to bring his own hay.
The feed in question was teff hay, which is now known to potentially contain synephrine – something which was acknowledged in an FEI warning distributed via email in a veterinary update on May 13.
Riossa outlined the many procedures he had in place to ensure his horses remained drug-free.
His veterinarian provided a statement saying he had never given synephrine or any similar substance to Famorku. Indeed, he did not know of any product containing synephrine or a similar product that would be used in veterinary practice.
Riossa also provided an expert opinion from Professor Borut Strukelj, who said it was likely the positive tests arose due to the unintentional feeding with bitter orange leaves, or more likely mora, with the hay, composed of teff grass or common rush.
Riossa explained that he had no reason to suspect that the hay provided by the organiser could contain any prohibited substances, especially since the synephrine risk came to light only after this case.
The FEI, following three positive cases involving synephrine arising from the same competition tour in Carmona, contacted the organiser for a hay sample.
Several bales remained from the same supplier. Screening tests subsequently indicated the possible presence of synephrine.
Peltokoski, from Finland, outlined almost identical circumstances. He had also fed hay supplied through the event organiser. He also outlined the extensive procedures in place to ensure his mount remained clear of drugs.
He provided the same expert opinion from Professor Strukelj.
The FEI, in both cases, said it was satisfied the teff hay was the source of the substance.
It said the riders could not reasonably have known or suspected, even with the exercise of utmost caution, that the hay contained a banned substance.