FEI warns competitors feeding supplements is ‘negligent’, after failed dope tests

Feeding supplements to horses is negligent, the FEI has reiterated after two dressage horses failed dope tests, owing to the possibility of contamination or the fact ingredients lists may not be accurate.

US riders Kaitlin Blythe and Adrienne Lyle’s rides, Don Principe and Horizon respectively, both tested positive for banned substance ractopamine at a show in Wellington, Florida, in February 2017.

As stated in its report published last month the FEI Tribunal ruled that although the presence of banned substance ractopamine was caused by contamination of a supplement fed to both horses, and that neither rider bore “significant fault or negligence” for the positive results, the FEI stated it is “of the opinion that by using a supplement in the first place, the PR [person responsible; the rider] is already negligent”.

“One cannot claim that the PR is totally without fault, since she actually used a supplement on which they had carried out no research on,” it stated.

The tribunal heard both horses were fed a supplement called Soothing Pink, made by Cargill Inc which admitted responsibility and found by testing that the supplement the horses had been fed before the test date was contaminated by ractopamine, a drug that reduces fat content in animals reared for meat.

Cargill then withdrew the supplement from the market and has discontinued the use of appetin, an ingredient of Soothing Pink found to be the cause of the contamination.

The tribunal report states that both riders and the horses’ owners “took responsible measures to ensure their horses were not exposed to banned substances”.

“All four individuals were well acquainted with the warnings issued by both the [US equestrian federation] and the FEI regarding the administration of supplements to horses, and all four followed every reasonable step to guard against the risks those warnings address,” said the report.

“Indeed, both Horizon and Don Principe had been drug-tested before February 2017 while on the same feed and supplement diet as they used in February 2017 and they never tested positive. The difference, we now know, is that a limited quantity of Soothing Pink was accidentally contaminated before it left Cargill, and the four individuals charged in these cases were unfortunate recipients of that accidentally tainted product.”

The report added in both cases that: “The FEI does not doubt the fact the PR is a very good person with good intentions in relation to her horses, who is in a very difficult situation.”

The PRs and the FEI reached agreement with the FEI by which each rider has to pay a fine of 3,000 Swiss francs (£2,414) as well as their own legal costs, and was suspended for three months, backdated to 2017.

The riders both accepted the penalties but do not agree they were negligent in feeding the supplement, as they “firmly believe” they “did no wrong”, and accepted the settlement agreement in order to put the incident behind them and incur no further costs or disruption.

In a warning over the use of supplements, referred to in the tribunal report, the FEI states that PRs are responsible for whatever their horses ingest, that elimination of suspensions on the base of “no fault or negligence” does not apply if the presence of the substance concerned comes from a “mislabelled or contaminated supplement”.

The warning adds that PRs should “be aware that it is not unusual for supplements, herbal remedies etc. marketed within the equine industry or over the internet to contain banned substances or controlled medication substances that are not disclosed on the product label.

“It is also possible that those substances are contained in different amounts in the supplement, herbal remedy, etc than stated on the label, or the product used may have been inadvertently contaminated with a banned or controlled medication substance.

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“There is no guarantee that the ingredients list on any supplement, herbal remedy etc. is accurate.”

The statement concludes: “The FEI’s message is: ‘If in any doubt, do not give it to your horse’.”

Read the reports on Don Principe and Horizon, and the FEI warning, in full.

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