Top event rider ‘in total disbelief’ after contamination results in loss of Paris 2024 team ticket

  • China has lost its Paris 2024 eventing team ticket after their top-placed horse tested positive for controlled medication at Millstreet’s Olympic qualifier (31 May to 4 June).

    Alex Hua Tian’s ride Chicko, a 13-year-old gelding with whom he finished fourth individually and helped the Chinese team to both second place and an Olympic spot, tested positive for controlled medication altrenogest.

    The drug is commonly known under the trade name Regumate, which is a hormonal treatment for mares. It is listed as a controlled medication for males and geldings on the FEI clean sport database. This means altrenogest is recognised as a substance that is deemed to have therapeutic value and/or be commonly used in equine medicine, but cannot be present in male horses during competition.

    The positive test means Alex and Chicko have been disqualified from the competition. As a result, Japan has now moved ahead of China in the team standings. The new results mean China’s Paris 2024 Olympic team ticket has been reallocated to Japan.

    Alex said he is in “total disbelief”, and that his investigation, carried out by a team of experts, “found conclusively that the trace amount of altrenogest detected” was owing to Chicko eating contaminated hay from the next-door stable at the event.

    “As a passionate supporter of clean sport, with a pristine record at international level for 18 years and knowing how careful we are as a team with any risk of contamination, I was in total shock,” said Alex, adding that he was notified of the positive test on 10 July.

    “With the support of Richard Davison, Schelstraete Equine Law, JunZeJun Law and Penny Ecroyd we put together a team of specialist vets, equine scientists and toxicologists to conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances that led to this adverse analytical finding.”

    He said that on the evening of 1 June, Chicko was attended by the Chinese team vet and the treatment vet at Millstreet, as he was behaving unusually with some behavioural signs of mild colic. The vets directed them to remove Chicko’s feed and hay until the following morning.

    “The following morning, Chicko was back to his normal self and was passed by all the vets fit and healthy to continue with the competition. We were directed to give Chicko his hay but in regular handfuls throughout the day,” said Alex.

    “Due to the nature of temporary stabling, the gap between panel and floor, and in the absence of his own hay, Chicko gained access to hay from the mare in the stable next door.

    “This was noted when Chicko was checked on that evening and despite trying to block the hole, was also suspected during the following day when he had run out of his own hay.

    “The mare next door was being medicated with Regumate (altrenogest is permitted in mares) during this competition and routinely urinated on her remaining hay.

    “It was unknown to me, my team and everyone I have been able to discuss this matter with, including vets and equine scientists, that altrenogest is not only excreted in the urine in its whole compound (not metabolites as almost all other medication), but excreted in reasonably high concentrations.”

    The blood and urine sample was taken from Chicko at 3.15pm on 2 June. The horse tested positive, confirmed by the B-sample. The FEI gave Alex the option to go down its “administrative procedure” route, which is offered as a benefit for first-time minor offences. This means that he has been fined 1,500 CHF (£1,351) and ordered to pay costs of 2,000 CHF(£1,801) for the B-sample, but has not been given a suspension.

    “However, the core principles of the FEI, clean sport and the level playing field – which I not only accept but support wholeheartedly – are that a horse that is found to have a controlled medication in its system during competition is a rule violation and as a result is automatically disqualified from that competition, regardless of how that substance entered the horse,” said Alex.

    “I am in total disbelief. Despite the findings of the investigation, as a rider, I take full responsibility for the consequences. This matter has far-reaching impact on my teammates, supporters of the sport and the national Chinese equestrian eventing team.

    “I sincerely apologise to the country, the Chinese Equestrian Association, my teammates Bao Yingfeng, Sun Huadong, Liang Ruiji, our horse owners, partners, our equestrian community and supporters.

    “I intend to continue flying the flag for Chinese equestrianism on the international stage, uphold the principles of clean sport and the Olympic movement whilst taking every possible measure to ensure that issues related to doping and controlled substances for both humans and horses do not occur.”

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