A top vaulting horse has become the first World Equestrian Games (WEG) medal-winner to test positive for a banned substance.

Escudo Fox, ridden by Austria’s Sissi Jarz and lunged by Julia Nöbauer, carried Jarz to the bronze in the individual female event at the WEG at Aachen in August.

After competing, Escudo Fox was randomly selected for testing on 26 August. Analysis of the horse’s urine sample revealed the presence of acepromazine (ACP), a banned sedative. Under International Equestrian Federation (FEI) rules, both vaulter and lunger bear responsibility for the test result.

When contacted by H&H, Miss Jarz declined to comment.

Rebecca Morgan, coach of the Scottish vaulting team that represented Britain at Aachen, told H&H that she was shocked to hear of the positive test.

But she added: “Sissi is one of the top riders, but Escudo Fox was in gold medal position at last year’s European Championship before totally losing it during the second vault. The noise of the crowd really got to him and he completely freaked out.”

Mrs Morgan said that the positive test was a “huge blow” for vaulting, a discipline that is steadily growing in popularity in Britain. “I think this is very bad news for the sport,” she said. “It’s hugely disappointing that it happened, especially at WEG.”

But she hoped some good could come out of the episode. “Vaulting hasn’t really addressed these sort of issues before — it hasn’t needed to,” she said. “I hope that now we can sit down and discuss how we’re going to move forward.”

The only previously known positive test in vaulting came in 2004 when the horse of current World Champion Kai Vorberg tested positive for a banned anti-inflammatory. Two years later, the FEI cleared both Mr Vorberg and his lunger of any wrongdoing.

An FEI spokesman told H&H that connections of Escudo Fox requested that a confirmatory sample — known as a “B” sample — be tested. This also came back positive and the FEI is currently awaiting a written explanation before deciding what action to take.

The spokesman stressed that there was nothing unusual in the delay of over three months between the test being taken and the result being made public.

She said: “It takes our laboratory a month to test the sample, as they are screening for every banned substance. We also have a high volume of work, so the timeframe is absolutely normal.”

At a meeting last month, the FEI announced that the speedier analysis of drug samples would be one of the main aims for 2007.

  • This news report was first published in Horse & Hound (14 December, ’06)