US Polo Association to bring in doping rules after pony deaths

  • The US Polo Association (USPA) is planning to bring in a prohibited substance policy, following the deaths of 21 ponies in Florida last week.

    After a USPA meeting in Florida on 25 April, executive director Peter Rizzo announced the set-up of a committee to examine “equine safety issues” in polo.

    The committee will look at the roles of vets, players, owners and polo leaders — and establish a prohibited substance policy.

    Mr Rizzo said the committee will: “Examine the practices and policies of other equestrian organisations, as well as examining existing protections for horses and possible improvements.”

    Ponies from the Venezuelan polo team Lechuza Caracas died on Sunday 19 April. Seven died on the field, just moments before they were due to take part in the US Open Polo Championships at International Polo Club Palm Beach, others died in veterinary care later that day or overnight.

    They were reported to be showing signs of dizziness and disorientation.

    Results of autopsies being performed on the ponies have not yet been released, but preliminary test results have shown bleeding in the ponies’ lungs.

    And a “compounding pharmacy” in Florida has claimed responsibility for providing the medication that killed them.

    Franck’s Pharmacy of Ocala admitted last Thursday, 23 April, to producing a flawed batch of Biodyl, given to 21 Lechuza Caracus team ponies by Argentinian vet Felix Crespo before the match.

    On Sunday 19 April, Crespo admits to injecting the “vitamin supplement” Biodyl designed to aid the ponies’ recovery from exertion after the match. Made by Merial, Biodyl is supposed to contain a mixture of selenium, vitamin B, potassium and magnesium.

    The Lechuza Caracus team captain has admitted that it is regularly used on the team’s horses.

    In a statement released on Sunday, Lechuza patron Victor Vargas described last week’s events as “heartbreaking for everyone”, but confirmed the team would be arriving in England next month as planned.

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