Contaminated hay behind drugs breach in Endurance horse, tribunal finds

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Contamination of teff hay with an invasive weed was behind a failed drug test in an Endurance horse in South Africa, the FEI Tribunal was told.

The contamination gave rise to a positive drug test for atropine and scopolamine in the horse Eks Aman, who competed in a CEI1* 80km event at Bredasdorp on September 29 last year.

The rider, Nico-Meyer Le Roux, acknowledged the positive drugs test, but received no fine or disqualification after the tribunal and FEI agreed that he bore no fault or negligence over the breach.

The source of the two related substances was found to have arisen from contamination of the hay with  Datura stramonium, also known in South Africa as oileboom of stinkblaar.

The weed, which goes by the English names jimsonweed or devil’s snare, is a plant in the nightshade family which is now found in many parts of the world.

The case came to the attention of the FEI after a urine sample taken from Eks Aman following the race revealed the presence of the two substances, both listed as controlled medications under the FEI’s anti-doping rules.

Atropine is used in the treatment of eye diseases, and for bronchodilation in recurrent airway obstruction. Scopolamine is used to treat gastrointestinal spasms and can reduce respiratory tract secretions.

Le Roux explains that his family had five horses entered in the Tip of Africa Endurance ride which took place on September 28 and 29 last year.

Before the competition, four of the horses were kept at his father’s farm in Kommandodrif, while Eks Aman was kept at his own farm in Oudtshoorn.

All five horses were drug-tested at the event, but only Eks Aman’s sample failed.

The only distinction in the feeding regime between Eks Aman and the other horses at his father’s farm was the source of the teff hay fed to them.

The other horses were fed with the teff hay from the family’s usual supplier while Eks Aman was fed with newly purchased teff hay from a different supplier.

The family, he explained, had been compelled to buy the 425 bales of teff hay from the new supplier since the usual supplier ran out due to the severe drought in the Western Cape.

A sample of the teff hay from the new supplier was sent for analysis, the results of which revealed considerable amounts of atropine and scopolamine due to the presence of Datura stramonium.

The new supplier, a fruit farmer, said he was unaware of toxic plants such as datura.

Le Roux provided a statement from his vet saying that Eks Aman had never been given either of the drugs.

The rider also outlined the procedures he had in place in a bid to ensure his horses remained compliant with the FEI’s anti-doping regulations.

Le Roux said the remainder of the teff hay bought from the new supplier had been destroyed and he confirmed that his family will, from now on, demand that any future supplier provide a certificate attesting that the teff hay is free from datura or any other plant that may contain prohibited substances.

The FEI said it accepted that Le Roux had identified the source of the drugs. It said it accepted that he bore no fault or negligence for the drugs breach. It agreed that Le Roux should receive no fine or suspension.

The circumstances of the case were laid out in a written agreement between Le Roux and the FEI, which was ratified by Henrik Arle, a member of the tribunal.

Each party will bear their own legal costs in the case.

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