Contamination of a commercially available supplement with the banned substance ractopamine was behind two failed drug tests in high-level dressage horses who competed in Wellington, Florida, last year.
The two cases have been dealt with by the FEI Tribunal, which found No Significant Fault or Negligence applied in either case.
However, the tribunal warned that owners and riders who give supplements to their horses must accept the risk of contamination.
One case involved the horse Horizon, ridden by US-registered rider Adrienne Lyle in a CDI3* event in Wellington from February 8-12 last year. The horse is owned by Elizabeth Juliano.
The other horse, Don Principe, ridden by another US-registered rider, Kaitlin Blythe, competed in the same event. Don Principe is owned by Maryanna Haymon.
The two horses, their owners and riders were unconnected apart from the fact the horses had received a popular supplement called Soothing Pink Original Pellets, produced by the Progressive Nutrition division of Cargill, Incorporated.
The firm tested retained product samples which indicated batches fed to the two horses had been contaminated with ractopamine.
Ractopamine is a beta adrenoceptor agonist used to promote growth and leanness in certain food-producing animals. It is classified as a banned substance under the FEI’s equine anti-doping rules.
Cargill eventually concluded that the ractopamine contamination was caused by an ingredient of Soothing Pink called Appetin. The firm has stopped using Appetin in feed products.
The FEI Tribunal, comprising Constance Popineau, Harveen Thauli and Cesar Torrente, released separate decisions in the cases, in which broadly the same circumstances were traversed.
In both cases the riders had agreed a case summary with the FEI, which was submitted to the tribunal. In the summaries, it was accepted that Lyle and Blythe bore No Significant Fault or Negligence for the breaches.
In both cases, suspensions of three months were agreed after negotiation, and fines of 3000 Swiss francs were levied against each rider.
The riders and owners had suspected contamination of feed or supplements immediately after the cases came to light. They had contacted one another and compared records of what they had fed their horses.
They quickly realized that certain products overlapped, and that several came from Cargill or its affiliates. This led to the investigation by Cargill.
It was submitted to the tribunal in both cases that the riders were extremely mindful of all anti-doping rules and took great care to avoid violations. They had procedures in place to avoid violations.
The supplement at the centre of the case was commonly used and reputable, and was not supposed to contain any banned substances. There was no way the riders could have known the product was contaminated at the manufacturer level, they submitted.
The FEI accepted that the positive drug tests came from a contaminated product, and it did not question the good intentions of either rider toward their horses. The pair found themselves in a difficult situation.
But it was of the opinion that by using a supplement in the first place they were already negligent. They could not claim they were totally without fault, since both used a supplement on which they had carried out no research, it argued.
Hence, the 23-day provisional suspension served by each rider before it was lifted cannot be a sufficient sanction in such cases, it said.
The tribunal accepted the agreed summary in both cases.
It commented in both decisions: “The tribunal wishes to clarify that supplements for horses are not to be treated differently than supplements for humans, and that both, athletes when consuming supplements and riders when feeding supplements to horses, take risks and accept the risk of supplement contamination.”