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The riders of two horses who failed dope tests while competing at Vilamoura in Portgual have been disqualified after it was found the positive tests were caused by contaminated hay bought at the venue.

Brazilian showjumper Marlon Modolo Zanotelli’s ride Sirene De La Motte and British rider Henry Turrell’s Blaze of Glory II both tested positive for sparteine, which is used to treat cardiac arrhythmia and stimulate uterine contractions, at the Portuguese centre at shows last February and March respectively.

Since the tests, sparteine has been reclassified as a specified substance, defined by the FEI as “more likely to have been ingested by horses for a purpose other than the enhancement of sport performance, for example, through a contaminated food substance”.

In a decision released this month, the FEI Tribunal ruled that: “Sparteine is found in common broom or Scotch broom and the predominant alkaloid in lupin flower. Neither plant is a common contaminant in feed substances, but clearly could be a feed contaminant, especially in certain countries, where the lupin flower grows.

“Both horses… competed at the same competition in Portugal. Lupin flower grows in many parts of Portugal and the seeds have a common use in Portugal as a snack. The FEI therefore believes there is a high likelihood of some kind of contamination during the competition.”

Henry told the FEI he bought hay from the show organisers during the event, and only fed this hay. He said he runs a small private breeding and producing yard, that his horses are “treated as part of the family” and that he takes every care to prevent any accidental contamination.

Professional showjumper Marlon, who also only bought hay from the show team for all his horses during the event, told the FEI he “takes with great seriousness his anti-doping responsibilities as an athlete and takes extensive precautions to prevent any accidental contamination.”

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The FEI found in both cases that contaminated hay was the most likely cause of the positive tests and that neither rider bore any fault for the results – adding that as well as the two positive samples, there was “possible evidence of sparteine” in samples taken from five other horses at the venue, all of whose riders had bought hay from the organisers.

Neither rider was sanctioned but both were automatically disqualified from all classes at the shows concerned and each has to cover his own legal costs.

Vilamoura Equestrian Center was unavailable for comment.

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