Rider’s doping ban reduced following appeal over supermarket antibiotic cream ‘mistake’

  • A showjumper’s doping ban has been reduced from a year to three months following a settlement by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

    US showjumper Paige Johnson’s ride Luke Skywalker 46 tested positive for local anaesthetic pramoxine at Wellington CSI2* on 21 January.

    The FEI tribunal, held on 12 July, heard this was caused by a mix-up in a supermarket by Ms Johnson’s groom Sergio Molinero.

    A statement from Mr Molinero explained that he went to Walmart to buy a $4 (£3) triple antibiotic cream that had been used to safely treat minor cuts on horses at Salamander Farm “for many years”.

    “I found the triple antibiotic on the shelves in the same spot it always is and pulled four tubes of it off the shelves,” he said.

    “I believed at the time I was buying the same triple antibiotic we always buy which is ok under the anti-doping rules.”

    He added Paige found the receipt and he realised that he picked up the wrong tubes, which “looked so much like the one we always use”.

    “I now see that I mistakenly bought triple antibiotic with pain relief, and the pain relief contains pramoxine,” he said.

    Pramoxine is a banned substance under FEI rules, but will be reclassified to a controlled medication from 2018.

    Banned substances are “not permitted for use in the competition horse at any time”, whereas controlled medications are deemed by the FEI to have therapeutic value and/or are commonly used in equine medicine but not be present in a horse’s system on competition days.

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    This cream was used to treat some superficial cuts on the horse’s flank.

    The FEI ruled at the time that “even though the person responsible [Ms Johnson] bore no significant fault”, the equine anti-doping rules have been violated and the horse and rider must be disqualified from the whole event.

    Ms Johnson was also banned for a year, fined CHF2,000 (£1,548.87) and asked to contribute CHF3,000 (£2,323.30) towards the costs of the judicial procedure.

    Ms Johnson appealed to the CAS, which has now approved a new settlement between the FEI and Ms Johnson.

    FEI legal director Mikael Rentsch said: “Given the fact that pramoxine has been recently reclassified as a controlled medication, effective as of 1 January 2018, the FEI agreed as a matter of fairness and based on the principle of proportionality, that the period of ineligibility initially imposed by the FEI Tribunal should be reduced.

    “Three months was deemed appropriate given the circumstances.”

    Ms Johnson has been cleared to compete, having served her ban from 5 April to 5 July.

    The CAS arbitration costs are being split equally between the parties.

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