FEI Tribunal Clears Paget in Doping Scandal

FEI Tribunal Clears Paget in Doping Scandal

An FEI tribunal cleared Jock Paget of any wrongdoing relating to a positive drug test his horse Clifton Promise produced after winning the 2013 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

Photo: Erica Larson, News Editor

A Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) tribunal has cleared New Zealand three-day eventer Jonathan "Jock" Paget of any wrongdoing after his mount, Clifton Promise, tested positive for the prohibited sedative reserpine after winning the 2013 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. As a result, the tribunal said they would impose no further sanctions on Paget.

In its 36-page decision dated July 7, the tribunal found that Clifton Promise's positive drug test was the result of consuming a supplement—LesstressE, which the horse had consumed and competed on numerous times in the past without a positive drug test—contaminated with the prohibited substance during its manufacture. The decision stated that, prior to starting the horse on the supplement—which Paget said he used to manage Clifton Promise's stress levels during competitions—in 2010, he took steps to ensure the supplement was legal for use in FEI competitions.

"The tribunal takes note of the steps taken by the person responsible (PR, Paget) 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," the tribunal stated in the decision.

The tribunal noted that Paget could have obtained a third-party analysis on the substance to ensure it was free of prohibited substances, but noted that "the PR had used LesstressE at (Burghley) after having used it numerous times in the past and multiple testing for prohibited substances, which the tribunal considers comparable to an independent third-party testing authority.

"Given the specific circumstances in the case at hand, the person responsible (Paget) could not have reasonably known or suspected that certain subsequent batches of LesstressE would be contaminated with reserpine."

Despite the fact that Paget has been cleared of any wrongdoing, Clifton Promise remains disqualified from the 2013 Burghley Horse Trials and the title will remain in the hands of runner-up Andrew Nicholson, also of New Zealand, and his mount Avebury.

“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 on the Equestrian Sports New Zealand (ESNZ) website. “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.”

Chris Hodson, QC, ESNZ president, added, “It is very important to the reputation of equestrian and New Zealand sport that no athlete should be knowingly involved in any act of doping. That Jock Paget has proved his innocence, which requires a very high standard which has only been achieved in one previous case, is intensely satisfying, and fully justifies the support which ESNZ has given him throughout.”

The ESNZ website also stated, "Today’s decision clears the way for Paget and Clifton Promise to compete at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in France later this month. The combination was provisionally named in the New Zealand team for the four-yearly world championships, pending the final ruling."

In addition to ruling on Paget's case, the FEI tribunal also ruled on the case surrounding Australian eventer Kevin McNab's horse Clifton Pinot, who also tested positive for reserpine at the 2013 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. In their 33-page decision on McNab's case, the tribunal found that Clifton Pinot's positive likely came from the same contaminated supplement as Clifton Promise's. Thus, the tribunal ruled that McNab had "succeeded in establishing that he bears no fault or negligence for the rule violation," and imposed no further sanctions.

The tribunal heard Paget and McNab's casesin London, England, in early June. The full texts of both decisions are available online

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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