Feed contamination behind failed drugs test in showjumping horse

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A French rider bore no fault for her showjumping horse failing a drugs test, the FEI Tribunal ruled, after a commercially prepared feed was identified as the likely source.

Fanny Skalli had ridden Amitie Des Douces in a CSI2* event in Gorla Minore, Italy, in early March.

The horse was subjected to a routine drug test, and was found to be positive for ergonovine, which is a banned substances under the FEI’s anti-doping regulations.

Skalli and the FEI reached agreement around the circumstances surrounding the case, which were provided to the tribunal in writing.

Henrik Arle, sitting as a one-member panel, ratified the decision. It was agreed that no fine or suspension was warranted, given that Skalli bore no fault or negligence over the drugs breach.

Skalli explained that Amitie Des Douces was fed 1kg of the feed Hypona 788 Optimal three times a day as part of his diet.

Evidence was given that ergonovine, also known as ergometrine or ergometrinine, had no possible therapeutic use in equine medicine, but horses can get exposed to the substance by eating grain.

Fungi of the genus Claviceps produce alkaloids such as ergonovine, which then can be found in wheat, barley, oats and triticale subsequently given to horses.

Hypona 788 Optimal contains wheat, barley and oats.

In the search for the source of the positive finding, Skalli asked the feed company to test the feed.

The feed company did so, and confirmed the presence of ergonovine. It said that it screened for ergonovine and other ergots, but the values ultimately found in the prepared feed were below the laboratory’s analytical threshold of 3.0 µg/kg.

The FEI consulted its external expert, Professor Stuart Paine, on the plausibility of the contamination of ergonovine based on the above explanations.

He said that, given the estimated level of ergonovine in the sample, and the amount of the feed the horse was being given daily, it was plausible for the horse to get the concentration detected in its drug test.

Skalli explained the care procedures in place for Amitie Des Douces. The horse is housed at her fiancé Steve Guerdat’s stables and they have extreme precautions and procedures in place to avoid positive findings.

She said she was surrounded by top professional people who are all well aware of contamination issues.

Skalli explained she was well aware of the strict rules on doping regulations and her team tried to control everything, “but the truth is that there are still things that they simply have no control over”.

The FEI accepted that, on a balance of probabilities, a plausible explanation as to how the ergonovine entered the horse’s system had been provided.

Skalli could not reasonably have known or suspected, even with the exercise of utmost caution, that the feed contained a banned substance.

The FEI was therefore satisfied that she had established she bore no fault or negligence for the drug violation.

Henrik Arle, in ratifying the decision, noted that the FEI accepted that the likely source of the ergonovine had been identified. He further noted the FEI’s view that Skalli bore no fault or negligence for the rule violation.

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