Jock Paget and Kevin McNab cleared of doping: Tribunal details [H&H VIP]

  • Eventers Jock Paget and Kevin McNab have been cleared of any wrongdoing for doping offences at Burghley last year. The official decision was released by the FEI yesterday (8 August) and stated that a herbal supplier was to blame for a contaminated calmer, which had caused the positive tests.

    The full details of the case were released by the FEI in 36- and 33-page documents. H&H has put together a summary of the arguments that were put forward by both sides and the verdict from the Tribunal.

    In summary

    Last October, it was revealed that the rides of eventers Jock Paget (Clifton Promise) and Kevin McNab (Clifton Pinot) had both tested positive for the prohibited substance reserpine at Burghley Horse Trials. As a result of the positive tests, both riders were automatically banned from national and international competition.

    B samples from both horses were then tested and confirmed the positive result in November.
    In April 2014, Jock was officially disqualified from his winning title at Burghley following a “partial decision” by the FEI Tribunal. A statement from the FEI confirmed that Jock had accepted that the “banned substance had been found in the horse and requested that the FEI Tribunal rule separately on the automatic disqualification from Burghley”.

    On 22 May, at the request of the riders, the FEI agreed that both cases could be heard together.

    The final FEI hearing was held in London on the 3-4 June and yesterday (7 August) the Tribunal’s decision was announced, clearing both riders of any wrongdoing.

    The case

    To avoid punishment, both riders had to prove “no fault and no negligence”. This means they firstly had to prove they were not at “fault” for the drug being in the horses’ systems and secondly that they could not be accused of being “negligent” for its presence.

    No fault argument

    Riders submission

    • Both riders argued that the drug had entered the horses through a calmer called LesstressE which was produced by Trinity Consultants.
    • Jock stated he had begun using the product in 2010 on the recommendation of fellow New Zealand eventer Joe Meyer.
    • Kevin said that he had started to use the product after bringing three horses to the UK in May 2012 and stabling them with Jock. He said he had “adopted Mr Paget’s suppliers and the feed selected by him” which included LesstressE.
    • Both riders admitted the calmer had been given to Clifton Promise and Clifton Pinot on the morning of the dressage at Burghley (6 September).
    • 12 bottles of LesstressE were obtained from the stables of Jock Paget, Kevin McNab, Adam Trew and Jonelle Richards to be tested. Resperine was detected in 10 of them.
    • Director of Trinity Consultants Roger Hatch admitted mixing the supplement LessStressE on his kitchen table using a “wooden spoon and plastic bowl” and that there was no quality control in place.

    FEI argument

    • The FEI countered the argument by claiming the bottles had a “simple flip top lid” so could have been tampered with after leaving the manufacturers.
    • The FEI claimed Jock would have “strong motivation” to do this, given the drug is known to have a calming effect for dressage and he had admitted that Clifton Promise was “highly strung”.
    • The FEI also argued that all of the tested bottles had come from people who all knew each other.
    • They claimed that Jock and Kevin had an obligation to prove the exact moment of contamination — which was not possible due to the nature of the manufacturing process at Trinity Consultants — and therefore they should both receive a two-year ban from the sport.

    Counter argument

    • Jock and Kevin argued it was an “unfair obligation” to have to prove the exact moment of contamination.
    • Five witness statements were provided by riders who had given samples of LesstressE, saying that they had not added reserpine to the product post manufacture.
    • Two other riders — Arabella Spilman and Patricia Andrews — who had also given postive samples of the supplement said they had never met Jock or Kevin.
    • They argued that on the balance of probabilities (i.e. more than 51%) it was most likely that the contamination had occurred at the manufactures.

    Tribunal decision

    • The Tribunal found that on the balance of probabilities the LesstressE administered to the horse at the event caused the positive finding of reserpine.
    • It agreed that it would be an “unreasonable burden” on the person responsible to demonstrate the particular circumstances in which LesstressE had become contaminated.
    • The Tribunal noted that because “no good manufacturing policies existed and that no quality control had been in place” at Trinity Consultants there was an “increased likelihood of contamination of any products”.
    • The Tribunal said that, due to the various locations and the lack of connections between the different positive samples, the contamination of the produce after it had left Trinitiy Consultants was “unlikely”.
    • As a result, the Tribunal found that “on the balance of probabilities” the contamination of LesstressE had occurred at the manufacturers and therefore both riders had proved the first prerequisite of how the prohibited substance had entered the horses’ systems.

    No negligence argument

    Riders’ submission

    • Both riders argued they had taken comprehensive steps to check the supplement was legal.
    • Jock said that he started using the product on the recommendation of Joe Meyer, and that Joe’s horse had always had negative drugs test results.
    • Jock added he had used the product in Aachen in 2010 and the horse had tested negative — this reassured him that the product was safe to use and did not contain prohibited substances.
    • He also argued that the horse had been drug tested “several more” times between 2010 and 2013 — all tests coming back negative.
    • Jock claimed he had contacted Roger Hatch of Trinity Consultants who had “unequivocally confirmed” that the product did not contain prohibited substances.
    • Jock explained that the New Zealand team vet Oliver Pynn had approved his use of LesstressE.
    • Kevin argued that Clifton Pinot tested negative for banned substances having been fed LesstressE at Luhmühlen in 2012.
    • He said he had also been aware that Clifton Promise had tested negative on several occasions.
    • He argued further that he had checked on the Trinity Consultants website and spoken to the manufacturer directly about prohibited substances.
    • Kevin claimed he was aware that the New Zealand veterinary team had reviewed the substance and were happy with its ingredients.

    FEI argument

    • The FEI argued that under the context of the World Anti-Doping Code, athletes had been warned of the risk that supplements may be contaminated with prohibited substances. As a result, the riders had “assumed the risk” by still feeding supplements.
    • The FEI continued that it had also “specifically warned” riders about the danger of supplements and possible contamination.
    • The FEI argued that because both riders were using multiple supplements they should be “excluded from denying any responsibility”.

    Riders counter argument

    • Both riders argued that the tribunal has previously “expressly recognised supplements had to be treated differently in the context of equestrian sport”.
    • They further claimed that the proper care of elite horses required the use of supplements.
    • They stated that line between “supplement” and “feed” was blurred as some feeds contained additives. As a result the risk of contamination in hard feed could also not be ruled out.
    • As a result they claimed that it was “unrealistic” to be able to take all precautions to avoid the horses coming into contact with a contaminated product.

    Tribunal Decision

    • The FEI Tribunal said there should be a distinction between supplements used for welfare and performance enhancing products.
    • The Tribunal argued that LesstessE “had been used with the intention of enhancing the horse’s performance“.
    • However, the Tribunal said that just because it is a performance enhancing product “did not mean that the person cannot claim no fault of negligence”.
    • The Tribunal agreed the riders had taken reasonable steps in the past to ensure that an illegal substance was not in a product.
    • As a result the Tribunal found that the persons responsible had a “right to rely” on the product.
    • The Tribunal found that the riders could not have “reasonably known or suspected” that LesstressE would be contaminated with resperine.
    • As a result both riders were found to have established that they bear “no fault or negligence” for the rule violation.
    For more analysis and reaction on the verdict, don’t miss next week’s issue of H&H magazine, out 14 August.