In a Fédération Equestre Internationale Tribunal Decision dated Aug. 6, Jonathan Paget of New Zealand and Kevin McNab of Australia were both cleared of their doping charge stemming from positive findings of the tranquilizer reserpine in their mounts at the Land Rover Burghley CCI**** (Great Britain) in 2013, which Paget won.
Both Paget and McNab pointed to a supplement, LesstressE, as the unintentional mode of delivery of the reserpine to their mounts, Clifton Pinot and Clifton Promise. Certain bottles of the supplement were contaminated with reserpine in the manufacturing stage, unbeknownst to Paget and McNab, according to the case summary.
In their decision summary, the FEI Tribunal (Armand Leone, Erik Elstad and Jane Mulcahy) acknowledged that the reserpine entered the supplement during manufacturing. “The Tribunal however also believes that it is more likely than not that the LesstressE contamination had occurred at the manufacturing stage, i.e. at Trinity Consultants,” the decision read.
“In conclusion, the Tribunal finds that [Paget and McNab] has succeeded in establishing that he bears No Fault or Negligence for the rule violation. The Tribunal further finds that any otherwise applicable sanctions (except disqualification) with regard to [Paget and McNab] shall be eliminated,” the decisions read.
Paget and McNab are still disqualified from the 2013 Burghley (and Paget’s win taken away) due to the presence of resperpine in their horses’ systems, but they will not be punished with any further fines or suspensions.
Neither Paget nor McNab dispute the presence of reserpine in their horses’ blood and urine samples. But their argument was that the reserpine was present in the LesstressE supplement without their knowledge.
Paget “explained that the following supplements had been used in general at the stables around the event: Outshine, Technyflex and Cortaflex, Strom, Zylkéne, Apple Lytes, Cartrophen and LesstressE, and that [Clifton Promise] had been administered Technyflex, Storm, Zylkene and LesstressE. Further that all of the supplements had been submitted to [Independent Equine Nutrition] for testing after he had learned about the positive finding, and that LesstressE had been found to contain reserpine. That once he had learned that LesstressE had been identified as the source of the reserpine found in the horse’s sample, he had stopped using it. That he and his friend and fellow rider, Mr. McNab, whose horse had also tested positive for reserpine at the event after having been administered LesstressE, had started investigations together,” the decision read.
Five other riders who had used LesstressE made their supply of the supplement available for testing. Testing by equine toxocologist Dr. Mark Dunnett revealed that only certain batches of LesstressE contained reserpine. “That screening analysis had indicated the presence of reserpine in all (in total five) samples manufactured between June and October 2013, whereas samples from two bottles of LesstressE from batches labelled as manufactured in February and March 2013 had not shown any reserpine. That confirmatory analysis of the five samples that had shown reserpine on screening analysis had revealed significantly varying levels of reserpine.”
The FEI Tribunal found that Paget and McNab had presented sufficient evidence to indicate that the introduction of reserpine into Clifton Promise and Clifton Pinot’s systems was unknown to them and out of their control. “In particular, in the case at hand, the [person responsible] did not know that the LesstressE contained reserpine. The question is whether he could or should have known so," the FEI Tribunal decision read.
“In this context the Tribunal takes note of the steps taken by the [person responsible] in order to avoid a positive finding for Prohibited Substances; namely requesting and receiving confirmation from his veterinarian that the product was safe to use, confirming with the manufacturer that the product was free of Prohibited Substances, and checking the product’s representation on the manufacturer’s website. In addition, the Tribunal takes note that the [person responsible] had used LesstressE around competitions prior to the event since 2012, and that the horse had tested negative for Prohibited Substances four times before.
“On the other hand the Tribunal understands that the PR had not acquired any third party (independent) certification in order to confirm the purity (absence of contamination) of LesstressE. The Tribunal finds that if the administration at the event would have been the first time the PR had used the product, or the first time he had been tested on the product, then it might have found that without independent third party guarantee, the PR might have to assume the risk of contamination, and might therefore have found him at be at fault.
“The Tribunal however finds that in the case at hand, the PR had used LesstressE at the Event after having used it numerous times in the past, and multiple testing for Prohibited Substances, which the Tribunal considers to be comparable to an independent third party testing authority. The Tribunal therefore believes that the PR had the right to rely on the product, and in particular to expect that the product did not contain any Prohibited Substances. The Tribunal therefore comes to the conclusion that given the specific circumstances in the case at hand, the PR could not have reasonably known or suspected that certain subsequent batches of LesstressE would be contaminated with reserpine,” the decision continued.
Paget, who was named to New Zealand's team for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (France), can now compete there.
“I feel as though I had my career stripped from me and now someone has said, ‘Hang on, you can have it back.’ It is complete relief,” Paget said in a statement released by Equestrian Sport New Zealand.
“I didn’t know if I would be cleared, despite knowing I had done nothing wrong. I knew it wouldn’t be as easy as turning around and saying ‘I didn’t do it.’ I was fortunate that we were able to find the source of the contamination, trace it and prove it, and—most importantly—that I wasn’t responsible nor could have known,” he continued.
McNab released a statement Aug. 8 expressing his relief at the end of the ordeal.
“I knew I had done nothing wrong—I’m not a doper, and I’m careful about what I feed my horses. I always knew that it had to be contamination and the written decision by the FEI Tribunal makes it absolutely clear that I was not at fault. I am a strong supporter of anti-doping. It has been a very unpleasant experience, and I hope that if anything good can come out of this it will be that my case and that of Jock’s serves as a reminder that the effect of doping-related allegations against the innocent are extremely distressing, and the protection of innocent parties is as important as detection of the guilty,” he said.
News broke in October 2013 that Clifton Pinot and Clifton Promise had tested positive for reserpine at Burghley and Paget and McNab were provisionally suspended by the FEI then. In June of this year, the FEI lifted the provisional suspensions after Paget and McNab requested a hearing before the Tribunal.