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FEI contamination warning: another horse’s positive dope test caused by groom’s urination

Riders and grooms should be aware of the risk of contamination from human urine the FEI has warned yet again, after another horse tested positive for a prohibited substance proven to be caused by a groom urinating in a horsebox.

Chilean Paula Llorens Clark’s ride S H Sciro tested positive for o-desmethyltramadol (a metabolite of tramadol) following the CEIYJ2* 120 event in Llay Llay, Chile, on 30 March 2019.

On 15 May 2019 the FEI notified 22-year-old Paula of the result and she was provisionally suspended for two years, with a provisional suspension of two months also given to the gelding.

The rider identified the source of the prohibited substance, by human to horse contamination by urination, from her groom who had been prescribed tramadol by his doctor, three times daily for seven days.

In a declaration to the FEI the groom confirmed on the day of the event he had urinated “close to the horse” and inside the trailer on several occasions where grass was stored. This was given to the horse on the day of the event. The groom said the gelding also had access to areas that were not disinfected and were contaminated with his urine, so the horse had “most likely” ingested contaminated grass.

The FEI consulted with its external expert, who confirmed the plausibility of the source, and in a preliminary decision on 12 August the FEI Tribunal lifted the rider’s suspension. On 9 September the FEI submitted a settlement agreement, signed by the FEI and Paula, to the Tribunal.

In a witness statement provided by Paula to the Tribunal she provided background of her riding experience and commitment to horse welfare and said she was “shocked” her horse has returned an positive test as she is aware of the risks of contamination. She added that to avoid these risks, she has procedures to avoid contamination at her stables. She explained to her support team the importance of following the procedures at the stables and when travelling to events.

The FEI said all riders and grooms should be aware of the risk of contamination from urination in horses’ stables, especially when the rider or support personnel is taking prohibited substances prescribed by a doctor.

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“Such behaviour should always be avoided and can be prevented through the responsible person’s management of procedures to avoid a positive test. The FEI has warned about the risk of contamination via the FEI clean sports notice on reducing risks of contamination, through urination and any person responsible, groom or other support personnel should inform themselves about such risks,” said an FEI spokesman.

In the agreement Paula admitted the violation of the equine anti-doping rules and waived her right to a final hearing. The FEI was satisfied she had established on a balance of probabilities how the substance entered the horse’s system and that she bore no fault or negligence for the rule violation. Paula will not serve any period of ineligibility, but her results from the event are disqualified.

In a final decision issued on 19 October 2020 the Tribunal ruled that the agreement between the FEI and Paula was approved. This decision is subject to an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport within 21 days.

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