FEI grants O’Connor more time

  • The FEI has granted Olympic gold-medallist Cian O’Connor a further week to send in his submission to the Judicial Committee, after his horse, Waterford Crystal, tested positive to a prohibited substance while competing in Athens. This is the second extension to the submission deadline requested by O’Connor.

    The case surrounding Waterford Crystal’s positive test has been fraught with controversy after part of the horse’s B urine sample was stolen before the testing could take place. A second test was undertaken on a blood sample instead, which confirmed the initial positive analysis.

    “The submission was supposed to go by 5 January, which was the [end of the] first extension, and then he has asked for another extension for one week,” explains FEI spokeswoman Muriel Faienza. “The extension has now been granted until 12 January.”

    The O’Connor hearing is now likely to take place at the end of January or in early February.

    O’Connor has maintained throughout that he did not use drugs to try to enhance the performance of Waterford Crystal in Athens, and that the substances were in the horse’s system as a result of treatment some period before the competition.

    However, the bad feeling surrounding the case was brought to the fore again recently when the Irish Show Jumpers Club chose O’Connor as its international rider of the year, leading to the resignation of some high profile members, including Peter Charles.

    Meanwhile, the FEI has published further details of the doping hearings surrounding Goldfever III (Ludger Beerbaum) and Ringwood Cockatoo (Bettina Hoy), including a detailed explanation of why it disqualified Beerbaum, but not Hoy.

    According to the head of the FEI veterinary department, Dr Frits Sluyte, the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone, which had been used topically on Goldfever III to treat a skin condition, can be administered in several ways and used to treat different conditions, which may in some cases enhance performance.

    While the FEI Judicial Committee said it recognised that “Goldfever received no specific competitive advantage as a result of the administration of the prohibited substance, which was for a legitimate medical treatment”, Beerbaum did not follow the correct procedure to obtain clearance to use the substance.

    Also, the President of the Veterinary Commission at the Olympic Games and FEI veterinary committee chairman, Professor Leo Jeffcott, stated that – had the German team vet approached him about Goldfever’s skin condition – he wouldn’t necessarily “have given permission for this cream to be used,” because “a positive test could not have been differentiated from this drug being given by another route for an orthopedic problem that could therefore have affected the horse’s performance.”

    In the Hoy case, Ringwood Cockatoo tested positive for sedating anti-histamine drug Hydroxy Diphenhydramine. One of the major differences between the cases was that Hoy’s groom checked with the German team vet, who in turn was told by someone whom he believed was a veterinary “official”, that Benadryl, which contains Hydroxy Diphenhydramine, would be an acceptable treatment for a rash in the saddle area.

    Although the “official” who gave this incorrect information was unable to be traced, Professor Jeffcott confirmed that – had he been approached by Weitkamp – he would have authorised the use of Benadryl because “this would have had no effect on the horse’s performance, but would have assisted the minor skin complaint and therefore the welfare of the horse”.

    So while the performance of neither horse was affected by the use of the prohibited substances, the fact that Beerbaum failed to try to obtain any clearance for the drug’s use, combined with the fact that clearance might not have been given even if he had asked, resulted in the FEI taking more severe action against him than Hoy, who tried to get clearance and whose request, if received by the correct person, would have been approved.

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