Cooling gel saw Endurance horse fail two drug tests; rider not at fault

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A Belgium-registered rider whose horse tested positive for an anti-inflammatory medication after two Endurance rides bore no fault for the breaches, the FEI Tribunal has ruled.

Jacques Sabeau was not fined or suspended over the breaches, which involved harpagoside, an anti-inflammatory drug with pain-killing effects.

He competed the horse Eaunoire Cookies in a CEI1* 100km Endurance contest in Bullange, Belgium, on June 30 last year, and in a CEI2* event in Wimmenau, France, in early September last year.

Urine samples taken from each event returned positive results for harpagoside, which is listed as a controlled medication under the FEI’s anti-doping rules.

Harpagoside is derived from the plant Harpagophytum procumbens, also known as devil’s claw. The plant is native to southern Africa and is exported worldwide for use in human and animal medicine.

Sabeau discovered that the substance entered the horse’s system through an equine product called Polyphytum, a cooling gel used to relax, loosen and relieve the muscles. It is applied to the horse’s legs.

Sabeau had used the gel at both events.

It emerged that the product contained 0.5% dry extract of Harpagophytum, equal to 5% of harpagoside, or 125mg of harpagoside per 500ml of bottle packaging.

The product did not contain any prohibited substances, according to its label.

In addition, Sabeau had consulted the manufacturer before first use and it was confirmed to him that the product was safe to use.

The FEI, in a written agreement with Sabeau, said it was satisfied he had shown how the substance entered his horse’s system.

In the circumstances, Sabeau could not reasonably have known or suspected that the product contained a controlled medication.

It agreed that he bore no fault or negligence for the medication breaches, and that no fine or suspension should be imposed.

FEI Tribunal member Dr Armand Leone, sitting as a one-member panel, ratified the agreement between Sabeau and the FEI.

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