Attempts by the FEI to draw a line under the death of a Maktoum-owned endurance horse at Compiègne in May have been thwarted by the sensational claim that samples covertly taken by officiating vets tested positive.

The FEI said L’Eremita di Gallura tested “clean” during post mortem — after accounting for medications given in attempts to save the horse’s life. But four French vets claim a leading French laboratory detected one unaccounted-for substance.

L’Eremita di Gallura was purchased from Italy two weeks before Compiègne, shipped to Newmarket and then to France. At the finish, the horse collapsed with neurological symptoms, and died in a clinic. The FEI announced the cause of death was inconclusive, but ever since lobby groups have demanded sight of the fuller autopsy.

The FEI spokesman told H&H that the post mortem was confidential and that the covert samples were flawed. She said; “Several days after the death, due to an apparent miscommunication, very poor quality samples were collected. The relevant French laboratory advised the testing they had undertaken was not at all comparable to regulatory testing. Due to poor cadaver storage and the very poor chain of custody, such results would not be of use.”

However, a spokesman for the vets said their samples were refrigerated while the official ones “travelled to Newmarket in someone’s pocket”.

The FEI declined to comment on whether the vets — Agnes Benamou-Smith, Christophe Pelissier, Antoine Seguin and Pierre Romantzoff — faced sanctions but added; “A review of many aspects of Compiègne was undertaken and one conclusion was the need to issue guidance to officials on the correct procedure for the collection of samples after a death or a catastrophic injury or in the event a horse has to leave a venue for further treatment.

This news story was first published in H&H magazine on 18 September 2014