Britain loses double European gold after positive controlled medication test

  • Britain has lost its team and individual young rider European Championship gold medals after Harry Charles’ ride tested positive for a controlled medication substance.

    Harry has been disqualified from all results at the event last July, meaning he loses his individual gold and Britain drops to team silver as a result of the test. The result was caused by accidental transference of a skin cream, used by an “innocent party” who uses it to treat an advanced cancer-related skin condition. It was transferred to Vivaldi du Dom when she stroked the horse.

    The 14-year-old gelding tested positive for lidocaine, a topical anaesthetic. Harry was given the choice of accepting an administrative procedure or asking for a hearing with the FEI Tribunal, but after the horse’s B sample also tested positive for lidocaine, he this week accepted the administrative procedure.

    This means he has to pay a fine of 1,500 CHF (£1,147) and costs of 2,000 CHF (£1,530) to include testing of the B sample, but no suspension from competition.

    Great sadness

    In a statement, Harry’s father, Olympic gold medallist Peter Charles, said the family had received the news with “great sadness”.

    “The horse was given a blood test after the team event on Friday. The result was positive,” he said.

    “The horse was tested again on Sunday — the result was a complete negative.

    “I have conducted extensive research into the level found,with the International Jumping Riders Club and Professor Thomas Tobin (MVB, MSc, PhD, MRCVS, DABT, AMAORC), world number one in his field, who says: ‘Given these circumstances, the amount and mechanism of this innocent and inadvertent transfer is completely unable to produce a significant pharmacological effect. This trace level finding is therefore of no pharmacological, regulatory or forensic significance.

    “Even though this comes under a medical positive, the FEI rules state very clearly that anything found, even the tiniest imaginable amount, results in automatic disqualification. We fully support the FEI in these rules as they are in place to protect the welfare of the horse at all costs.

    “I can honestly say without doubt that in this situation, no one is to blame; not the cancer patient, my grooms or least of all my son, who adores his horses, especially Vivaldi, who jumped his heart out.

    “Somehow we will put this behind us and move on, as this has been a very stressful and upsetting time. Myself and my wife Tara could not be more proud of our son’s achievements. He won his first four-star grand prix in 2018 and was selected for the Rolex Academy, and through them completes his first five-star grand prix in Aachen, of all places. Multiple successes followed on his other horses, at Gijon, HOYS, Olympia and Liverpool.

    “We look forward to the season ahead and feel very lucky to be part of a great sport, with all our beautiful horses who we love and enjoy every day.”

    “Words can’t convey how really sad I am for my fellow team members having to receive the news that this has happened. I will speak to each of them individually and I just hope I can then put this behind me and move on,” Harry said.

    Harry’s teammates Graham Babes, William Fletcher, Amy Inglis and Georgia Tame have all been informed, and understand the decision.

    British Showjumping chief executive Iain Graham said: “This is a wake-up call for everyone in the sport and really highlights the necessity for all of our athletes, both national and international, to ensure they both understand and adhere to the FEI clean sport policy.”

    British Equestrian Federation chief executive Nick Fellows added: “This was a controlled medication substance not a doping substance, but it should not have been present in Harry’s horse at the time of competition.  Of course it is desperately disappointing for Harry and the young rider team, but we accept the decision of the FEI and naturally uphold their zero tolerance in respect of the international clean sport policy which we also follow at a national level.”

    Continues below…

    Germany has been promoted to team gold. The Danish team, which took bronze, is unaffected.

    German rider Cedric Wolf now takes individual gold with Cho Chang J, Austria’s Felix Koller and Captain Future 3 take silver, and Dutch Tristan Marchal and Sambucca individual bronze.

    For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.

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