Pony rider stripped of medal after positive dope test

January 9, 2009


Elin Aspnas

The 16-year-old rider who won bronze at the 2008 European Pony Championships has lost her medal and been suspended from competition for two months by the FEI after her pony tested positive for a prohibited substance.

A sample from Tim, the pony of Swedish dressage rider Elin Aspnas, was found to reveal the presence of Lidocaine, a local anaesthetic that can be used to reduce pain and stiffness in soft tissues. It is classified as a Prohibited Substance under the Equine Prohibited List (VR Annex III, the "Equine Prohibited List"), in the class "Medication A" .

At the preliminary hearing, Aspnas said that she had used only one substance, Arnika Gel, which had been regularly used to give the pony relaxing massages. Arnika Gel was sold by a Swedish Company and on its package it was presented as "Natural Product for Massages" and as "approved for veterinary use". She said that as a result, she had been confident that the substance was legal.

However, testing of three different bottles of Arnika Gel - including the bottle used by the rider - revealed Lidocaine was found in the bottle used by the rider, but not in the two new bottles.

Aspnas said that neither she nor her team had added any substance to the Arnika Gel used on the horse.

Her counsel also argued that the security provided at the FEI International Event in Falsterbo, where Tim had competed two weeks before the event, had been insufficient and that the family of the rider, since spring 2008, had felt hostilities towards them from other families in the circle around the Swedish national pony team, and had also received handwritten anonymous threats.

Aspnas said that a criminal investigation had been initiated in Sweden three days before the hearing with respect to those threats. She said she could not prove that any other person had added the Prohibited Substance to the bottle used by her, but that it was not unlikely that this could be the explanation for the findings.

In its decision the Tribunal said that it could not find that Aspnas has met that burden of proof to show that she bears No Fault and No Negligence according to its Equine Anti-Doping and Medication Control Rules ("EADMCR"). "The analysis of the bottles containing Arnika Gel, together with the described hostilities, may suggest that somebody from outside the PR's team might have tampered with the Rider's bottle of Arnika Gel, but the Tribunal cannot accept this as a decisive proof."

It also said that lack of stable security "is not an excuse in doping cases and the PR is to ensure sufficient stable management and proper security over any horse used in international events in order to ensure that they are not administered any prohibited substances either negligently or willfully."

The tribunal ruled that Aspnas and Tim be disqualified from the event, and forfeit all prize money, points, and medals. The rider has also been suspended for two months effective immediately. She has also been ordered to contribute 1000 Swiss francs ($NZ1540; $US914) towards legal costs.