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The sport of endurance in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has once again come under the spotlight after the FEI confirmed seven cases of horses testing positive for prohibited substances under FEI anti-doping rules.

For the first time the FEI has immediately suspended the trainers of the horses as well as their riders. Normally only riders – considered the person responsible when a horse tests positive for a prohibited substance – receive immediate sanctions.

“We take all breaches of the FEI anti-doping regulations extremely seriously and these latest positives demonstrate clearly that those using prohibited substances will be caught,” FEI secretary general Sabrina Ibáñez said.

“This is the first time that we have suspended the trainers at the same time as the athletes, but when there are multiple breaches by one trainer, it is clear that there is something wrong with the stable management.

“Suspending the trainers immediately, rather than waiting until the athlete has been prosecuted, confirms that the FEI will not tolerate any attempts to enhance the performance of the horse.”

Positive tests

All seven horses tested positive to the same four prohibited substances: the stimulant caffeine and its metabolites theophylline, theobromine and paraxanthine. Theophylline, which is used for the treatment of asthma and various respiratory diseases, can be metabolised into caffeine.

One of the horses also tested positive to the corticosteroid flumetasone, which is used in the treatment of skin disorders.

Theophylline, caffeine and theobromine are listed as controlled medication and specified substances under the FEI’s equine anti-doping and controlled medication rules (EADCMRs). Paraxanthine is a banned substance under the FEI EADCMRs.

Banned substances should never be found in the body of the horse, while controlled medications are regularly used to treat horses, but must have cleared from the horse’s system by the time of competition.

The horses, all registered to the UAE, were tested at four different events at the Al Wathba venue in Abu Dhabi.

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When the tests took place

Samples taken at the CEI2* 120km ladies ride at Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi in the UAE on 26 November 2016 from Rafik De Kerpoint, ridden by Ireland’s Amy Louise McAuley tested positive for all four substances.

Castlebar Lightning, ridden by the UAE’s Saeed Sultan Shames Al Maamri, Intisaar, ridden by the UAE’s Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum, and Mraseel, ridden by the UAE’s Sheikh Sh Hamed Dalmook Al Maktoum in the CEI2* 120km ride at Al Wathba on 17 December 2016, tested positive for the four substances. Mraseel also tested positive for flumetasone.

Salam Banquetol, ridden by the UAE’s Abdulla Ghanim Al Marri to finish second at the CEI2* 120km event at Al Wathba on 24 December, tested positive to all four substances, as did both Tom Jones TE, ridden by the UAE’s Abdulla Ghanim Al Marri, and Aspenview Amir, ridden by the UAE’s Saeed Ahmad Jaber Al Harbi at the CEI2* 120km event at Al Wathba on 14 January 2016.

The seven riders and the trainers Ismail Mohd, Khalifa Ghanim Al Marri and Mohd Ahmed Ali Al Subose have all been provisionally suspended from the date of notification (30 January 2017). The seven horses are also suspended for a two-month period from the same date.

For further analysis on the implications of this latest development for endurance sport in the UAE, see Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 9 February.