New Zealand rider Jonathan “Jock” Paget has been suspended from all national and international competitions after his Land Rover Burghley CCI**** (England) mount Clifton Promise tested positive for the Fédération Equestre Internationale banned substance reserpine following their win there in September.
Paget and Clifton Promise, a 15-year-old New Zealand Thoroughbred gelding (Engagement—Darn Style, Cautious Style), also won the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton CCI**** (England) this year.
The horse, owned by Frances Stead, was routinely tested at Burghley as part of the FEI’s Equine Clean Sport program, and he produced a positive A sample finding for the substance. The FEI Clean Sport website lists reserpine as a tranquilizer.
Paget is suspended from competition pending the testing of the B sample and subsequent hearings. Clifton Promise is provisionally suspended for two months, pending results from the B sample testing and hearings.
“To my wider team of supporters and friends, I wanted to let you that we were shocked to be advised that Clifton Promise has tested positive for a banned substance,” Paget announced on his Facebook page early this morning. “We are awaiting the B sample and are focused on establishing the probable cause.”
Equine Australia also released a statement today, Oct. 15, that Clifton Pinot, ridden at Burghley by Australian Kevin McNab, tested positive for reserpine at the same competition. He’s also suspended at this time. Clifton Pinot, a 14-year-old Thoroughbred (Wallenda—Ice Stinker, Icelandic) owned by Stead and McNab, placed 14th at this year’s Burghley.
“Paget was understandably shocked at the finding,” stated a release from Equestrian Sports New Zealand. “He and all relevant parties state categorically that none of them have taken any actions with the intent of administering any prohibited substance. ESNZ and Paget are establishing a likely cause of the positive test and will provide submissions to the FEI Tribunal as required.”
ESNZ chief executive Jim Ellis informed Paget of the positive result, according to Horsetalk NZ.
“He is keen to go through the treatments that the horse has had. Clearly, that is not an easy exercise to do,” Ellis told Horsetalk. “We are not too down-spirited.”
U.S. Olympic eventer Boyd Martin grew up in Australia and is a good friend of Paget’s and McNab’s. McNab was the best man at his wedding. “The chances of them intentionally giving their horses medication is just absurd,” said Martin. “Both those guys are such experienced sportsmen. They would’ve absolutely understood that they were probably going to get drug tested at Burghley. Personally I think it’s a huge mixup. Somehow it’s got into the horses system without their knowing.”
Stead released a statement via the Clifton Eventers facebook page Oct. 20 outlining the steps they’re taking to prove innocence: including asking for the level of reserpine found in both horses from the FEI and employing a scientist to check for possible cross-contamination possibilities.
“On top of the extensive investigative work we are undertaking, we are also well aware of the many comments that have arisen about the weakness of security systems at top eventing competitions,” said Stead. “It has always been a very friendly and trusting sport, one of the things that attracts owners like ourselves to it. Burghley is no different to the other top four-stars (I have regularly attended all six of them): all you need is to be issued with the required colored wristband. Anyone wearing one of these then has access to the whole stable area at any time of day or night, with (as far as I am aware) the only ‘shut down time’ being for a few hours the night after cross-country.”