Sabotage blamed for positive drug test in Endurance horse


American endurance officials have laid out a series of concerns in a letter to the US Equestrian Federation. Photo: File


An Endurance rider from Spain whose horse tested positive for a controlled medication blames sabotage, but says he cannot prove it.

Miguel Vila Ubach was suspended for six months and fined 3000 Swiss francs over the drugs breach. He was ordered to contribute a further 1500 francs towards the cost of the case, heard by the FEI Tribunal.

Ubach had ridden TBO Joy in a CEI3* 160km ride at Fontainebleau, France, on March 30 last year.

TBO Joy was selected for testing and returned a positive urine test for salbutamol, a bronchodilator used in the treatment of inflammatory airway disease. It is classified as a controlled medication under the FEI’s anti-doping regulations.

Ubach was advised of the drugs breach through the Spanish Equestrian Federation.

He explained to the tribunal that the horse was usually stabled in a private stable. TBO Joy has always been “in perfect condition” without any respiratory problems or allergies.

He talked of a 30-year involvement in endurance, and said he had never used salbutamol in his entire career for any of his horses.

At the event, he had followed his usual protocols, with good results. “So, the only possible option is that an external person wanted to harm me.”

He was told that a horse would only test positive for salbutamol for 72 hours, which indicated the drug was administered in France. The only possible day was the one before the event, as the horse has been stabled privately on the other days.

Ubach said he was “totally innocent”. He said he had always taken great care of his horses and would be doing so in the future.

He said he had spoken with some veterinarians and was told that salbutamol could not help a horse if it was not asthmatic. In fact, it could harm a sound horse due to its effect on the heart rate.

Therefore, the substance had no benefit for the horse and it did not make sense to give it.

Ubach said everything pointed to sabotage, but he could not prove it.

He requested that security at events be improved.

The FEI, in its submission, said Ubach had not been able to show how the drug entered the horse.

This being the case, the FEI could not evaluate his level of fault or negligence. Consequently, no elimination or reduction of the period of ineligibility was possible.

Constance Popineau, sitting as a one-member panel, said Ubach did not provide any explanation or evidence as to how the salbutamol entered TBO Joy.

In fact, Ubach stated that he could not prove his suspicion of sabotage.

Therefore, he had not established – on a balance of probability, as required – the source of the medication, meaning the tribunal could not evaluate his degree of fault. It followed that no elimination or reduction of the otherwise applicable period of ineligibility was warranted.

She imposed the six-month suspension and fines.

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