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July 27, 2009

Pollard Suspended For Positive Drug Test

Michael Pollard’s Icarus, the winner of May's Jersey Fresh CCI*** (N.J.), has tested positive for traces of an anabolic steroid that the rider said was given nearly four months earlier for therapeutic purposes.

Pollard, Chatsworth, Ga., was suspended July 1 by the Fédération Equestre Internationale, and following a confirmatory test of the B sample last week, is preparing an explanation of the situation for an FEI Tribunal that will decide the length of his suspension and whether he must forfeit his victory.

After Icarus suffered gastrointestinal problems, with “severe diarrhea” and lost about 15 percent of his body weight last winter, Pollard said, his veterinarian suggested giving him Winstrol to “re-start his appetite.”

The horse received two doses of the drug, which is similar to naturally occurring testosterone, in December 2008 and January 2009.

Although anabolic steroids are on the FEI's banned list,  “It normally would be out of the system in 45 days, so we didn't even worry about it all,'' said Pollard.

Jersey Fresh began May 7, 110 days after the gelding's last dose.

“I don't think we necessarily did anything wrong. The levels were so low that they couldn't ever be construed as being performance-enhancing,” he maintained.

“It's a shame, more than anything else. It keeps him [Icarus] from using that competition as a qualifying result, and basically, depending on what the FEI decides to do as far as my suspension is concerned, could end the whole year for the horse.”

Pollard added that the situation also may jeopardize his hopes of being considered for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games team, if he can't get a qualifying score and compete in a four-star. He originally had planned on going to the Burghley CCI**** (England) in September.

“Ultimately, it's my responsibility,” Pollard emphasized, “but we did the best thing for the horse. In hindsight, I wish there was some way we could have declared it. They don't recognize that drug as having any legitimate use, but clearly, in this case, it did.”

If Pollard has to forfeit the Jersey Fresh victory, runner-up Jan Byyny—who has been second twice in the event with Waterfront—would become the winner. Pollard, however, is more upset about his qualifications situation than the prospect of having his Jersey Fresh win declared null and void.

“I feel like the horse did a great job on the day, and I had a great weekend. That doesn't really change,” he said.

Pollard's suspension is the latest in a series that has swept through the Olympic disciplines, with British show jumper Michael Whitaker and German dressage star Isabell Werth having been added to the suspension list in June, after their horses tested positive for prohibited substances.

“Because of the way the results come out and the way it's going to be viewed, it's going to look like, ‘Here's another person that's not clean in the sport,’ ” said Pollard, who noted, “the testing standards are unrealistic. Zero tolerance is a very difficult thing to manage.”