The UAE’s long list of sanctioned endurance riders increased last week with the two-year ban of Mohammed Ali Al Shafar after his UAE Presidents Cup-winning mount tested positive for a banned anabolic steroid.

Orman De Cardonne tested positive to 17-alpha-hydroxyprogesterone hexanoate after victory in Abu Dhabi on 16 February.

Ten days ago, FEI president Princess Haya sent a passionate letter to national federations, assuring them that everything was being done to resolve the crisis about doping and equine fractures in the Middle East. The subjects dominated debate at last week’s annual endurance conference in Abu Dhabi.

It also emerged that senior FEI figures including the vice-president John McEwen, visited the UAE last winter for meetings. So news that a top UAE horse tested positive during that period will dent confidence about any pledges to comply.

The substance found in Orman De Cardonne has a similar growth-stimulating effect to testosterone. It has featured in five other UAE cases in the past two years.

Al Shafar, whose family run the Al Reeh stables, told the tribunal that “no medication containing any prohibited substance” had been at his disposal in the stable as he “believed in true and fair sporting activities”.

The tribunal noted that Al Shafar, 43, made no attempt to explain how the substances might have entered the horse’s system. FEI records show that Al Shafar started his international career riding horses for Sheikh Mohammed and other stables owned by the Maktoum family.

Al Reeh later acquired a large number of ex-Maktoum horses, including Orman De Cardonne. Since 2005, 34 UAE personnel — riders, trainers and a vet — have been suspended for doping, 11 for two years or more. However, this was the first ever positive test from Al Reeh.

The decision notice was posted on the FEI tribunal website, with none of the media statements from national federations that accompanied the positive findings at Burghley of Clifton Promise and Clifton Pinot.

This news story was originally published in Horse & Hound magazine on 31 October 2013.