A British rider has been cleared of any intentional wrongdoing after a horse she was competing tested positive for a prohibited anabolic steroid.
Jessica Sternberg, 27, was competing Shiners Chic in a three-star reining competition in Katy, Texas, USA (20-21 April 2017) when the positive test for Stanozolol occurred. Horse and rider were subsequently disqualified from the competition.
Stanozolol is an anabolic steroid that can be used to improve performance by promoting muscular development. It is a banned substance on the FEI Equine Prohibited Substances List, which means it should never be administered to a horse competing under FEI rules.
After being advised of the positive test on 5 July 2017, Jessica told the FEI on 14 July that she had investigated how this substance could have come to be in Shiners Chic’s system. She had found out that the horse had been given Stanozolol before competing on 21 April 2017, but confirmed that she was unaware at the time that the horse had been administered this substance.
Jessica’s mother Rosanna Sternberg owns Shiners Chic and he is stabled at her ranch in Texas. Ranch manager Sean Pulley is responsible for the day-to-day care of the horses on the ranch, including organising veterinary care when required. Mr Pulley took to the horses due to compete at the 20-21 April show to the vets on 7 April for a pre-competition check up. On this date licensed vet, Dr. John McCarroll, gave the substance to the horse by injection, but did not tell anyone that he had done so.
When Jessica arrived at the ranch on 9 April she asked Mr Pulley if Shiners Chic or the other horses she would be riding in competition had received any medication or treatment that required disclosure or was prohibited. He told her that none of the horses had received any such medication, as he was unaware they had.
In his evidence to the tribunal, Dr. McCarroll stated that: “Nobody was trying to seek a competitive advantage or do anything that would harm the welfare of the horse. To the contrary, my goal is always to enhance the welfare of a horse, and I must have believed that Shiners Chic would benefit from Stanozolol, as it had joint soreness as reflected in my records.”
Find out everything about dope testing and how you can avoid an accidental positive test
The horse’s rider has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the contamination case
The FEI Tribunal accepted that none of the riders had the intention to enhance their performances and that they bore
Based on the evidence provided, the decision of the FEI Tribunal on 30 August 2018 was that Jessica bore ‘no significant fault or negligence’ for the banned substance found in Shiners Chic’s system.
The FEI Tribunal ruled that Jessica should be suspended from competition for 17 months from the date of the notification (5 July 2017), fined 3,000 CHF (£2,346) and pay legal costs of 1,000 CHF (£782).
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday