McLain Ward Suspended and Fined by AHSA

The American Horse Shows Association (AHSA), the National Equestrian Federation of the United States, announced Wednesday that following a meeting of its Hearing Committee, two plea agreements entered into by McLain Ward of Brewster, N.Y., were approved, and he has been suspended from all of the AHSA's recognized competitions in the United States and fined a total of $13,000.

The signed agreements were also entered into by the AHSA's Executive Director, Kevin Carlon, as specified by the rules regarding plea agreements. They eliminated the necessity of a formal hearing, which had been scheduled for New York on Monday, December 13, 1999. The hearing had been noticed based on formal charges the AHSA issued in the wake of actions by the sport's international federation, the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), to discipline Ward for alleged infractions of FEI rules at a major international event at Aachen, Germany, in June. Although Mr. Ward has denied any knowledge of or involvement in any FEI rule infraction, he acknowledges in the plea that as rider he was "the person responsible" under FEI rules. The AHSA's charges were based on reciprocity between the AHSA and the FEI in enforcing the sport's rules, as well as alleged violations of the AHSA/USET (United States Equestrian Team) Code of Conduct, which all athletes representing the USA in international competition are required to sign and observe.

The AHSA's suspension begins on the date set by the FEI, Sept. 20, 1999, and continues until May 19, 2000, unless it is reduced by the FEI or the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), before which Ward has an appeal pending. Ward has stated that he has not competed in national or international competition after Sept. 20, pending his appeal, and the AHSA accepted that representation. The FEI imposed costs and a fine totaling CHF $7,500 (approximately $4,500 U.S.) and the AHSA's fine of $10,000 in the reciprocity case is in addition to that amount. Should the CAS overturn the FEI's action in its entirety, the AHSA has agreed to waive the fine and the suspension. Should the CAS or the FEI reduce the time of the suspension, the AHSA has agreed to end its suspension on the date set by the CAS or FEI, but the fine will not be reduced unless the FEI penalty is overturned in its entirety.

Ward also faced separate charges for a violation of the AHSA's Drugs and Medications Rules, as trainer of a horse in an Amateur/Owner Jumper class at the American Gold Cup in September 1999 which tested positive for metabolites of a forbidden substance (cocaine). As part of that plea agreement approved by the Hearing Committee, while denying he administered any forbidden substance to the horse under his care, Ward accepted his responsibility under AHSA rules as trainer. He was fined an additional $3,000, and suspended for one additional month, to be served following the conclusion of the pending FEI/AHSA suspension of 8 months. Ward's fines are payable to the AHSA on or before Feb. 1, 2000.

In commenting on the resolution of these cases, the President of the AHSA, Alan F. Balch, said that "this has been a very difficult and time-consuming process for all concerned. Under the rules, the Executive Director has the responsibility to issue charges, and then explore plea agreements such as the ones reached here. But the ultimate responsibility of judgment rests with the Hearing Committee, which is composed of volunteers and is entirely independent, which must approve plea agreements before they become effective.

The special five-member hearing panel which approved the settlements included both eligible international athletes and USET trustees, as required by the rules in certain cases involving international competition. Mrs. T.V.W. Cushny (a trustee of USET) chaired the panel, joined by athletes David O'Connor (USET trustee) and Michael Poulin, as well as Jessica Ransehausen (USET trustee) and Linda Zang. The panel was appointed by the co-chairs of the AHSA Hearing Committee, following consultation with both Balch and Finn M.W. Caspersen, Chairman and President of USET, as provided for in the rules.

"The very idea of a settlement instead of a full hearing," Balch added, "was a concern to many of us, including our Executive Director, who sought advice from our officers and attorneys. However, since the rules specifically provide for the possibility of a settlement in these cases, we agreed that it was necessary and appropriate to consider settlements, provided that the Hearing Committee independently approve any settlement reached, which is also a requirement of the rules. While I can't speak for any of the members of the panel, and did not participate in its deliberation in these cases, as a long time member of that committee, I am certain that they considered all the facts and all the precedents from every conceivable point of view, and that they felt this was a just outcome. This panel was composed of exceptionally experienced people, and I am entirely confident in their judgment. They take their responsibilities very, very seriously. And from what I know of the lengthy process which led to the agreements, it appears to have been agonizingly difficult for both the AHSA's representatives and Ward's."

The Hearing Committee's formal notices of the outcomes follow.

Horse Show Notices
The Hearing Committee received and considered a plea tendered by Mr. McLain Ward of Brewster, New York, pursuant to which he acknowledged that he was the rider of the horse BENETON at CHIO Aachen on June 15, 1999 (the “Competition”) which was an international event organized under the authority of the Federation Equestre Internationale (the “FEI”), and was conducted under the FEI Statutes, General Regulations and Rules.

On June 15, 1999, it was reported that, during a bandage/boot control inspection at the Competition, two small, pointy pieces of plastic had been seen to fall from BENETON's right front boot. Thereafter, BENETON and Mr. Ward were disqualified from the Competition.

On October 22, 1999, after a hearing on September 20, 1999, the FEI Judicial Committee found that Mr. Ward, in his capacity as the Person Responsible for BENETON at the Competition on June 15, 1999, had acted in violation of Article 143 of the FEI's General Regulations, Jumping Regulations Article 243, and Veterinary Regulations Code of Conduct paragraph 8 and Annex XV.1. The Judicial Committee suspended Mr. Ward from participation in FEI recognized competitions for eight (8) months, with such suspension deemed to have begun on September 20, 1999, and thus terminating on May 19, 2000. The Judicial Committee also imposed a fine of CHF 2,500, and costs of CHF 5,000 toward a portion of costs of the judicial procedure, pursuant to Article 174.10 of the General Regulations.

Mr. Ward voluntarily ceased participating in FEI-recognized competitions after June 15, 1999, and he has represented to the AHSA that since September 20, 1999, he and his horses have voluntarily refrained from participating in any AHSA Recognized competitions.

Mr. Ward has appealed the FEI decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and has requested an expedited hearing. Mr. Ward has requested that the CAS reverse the findings and decision of the Judicial Committee or, alternatively, that it reduce his suspension to a period of three (3) months effective as of September 20, 1999 and terminating December 19, 1999.

In the plea agreement, Mr. Ward states that he has consistently denied that any plastic pieces were in the right front boot of BENETON and thus maintains that it could not have been the case that they fell from the right front boot during the bandage/boot control at the Competition. Mr. Ward also states that he has consistently denied that he instructed anyone to put any prohibited object in BENETON's boot, that he himself put any prohibited objects in the horse's boot, that, as he completed the competition on BENETON, he knew that any prohibited object had been put in the horse's boot. Mr. Ward states that he submitted to the FEI Judicial Committee the results of a polygraph examination of Mr. Ward and his groom, Lee McKeever, and Mr. Ward contends that the results support his position that he had no knowledge of or responsibility regarding the plastic pieces. However, Mr. Ward acknowledges for purposes of his plea agreement, that as the Person Responsible for BENETON at the Competition, pursuant to Article 142.2 of the FEI's General Regulations, he would be held responsible for the horse's condition in the event that CAS rules that the factual determination of the FEI Judicial Committee should be permitted to stand.

The AHSA Charge alleges that Mr. Ward's conduct as Person Responsible for BENETON at the Competition violated AHSA Rule VI, Chapter IV, Article 614 (Reciprocity), Rule VII, Chapter I, Article 702 (Violations), and the AHSA/USET Code of Conduct.

Mr. Ward acknowledges, for purposes of his plea agreement, that the findings of the FEI Judicial Committee would form the basis for a finding by the AHSA Hearing Committee that he violated the AHSA rules and the AHSA/USET Code of Conduct specified in the Charge.

Accordingly, by vote of the members of the Hearing Committee present at the meeting, it was resolved to approve and accept the plea agreement, and therefore it was further resolved that

a. Mr. Ward, during the period of the stated suspension, be found not in good standing and that he be suspended from competing or taking any part whatsoever in Recognized competitions as an exhibitor, participant or spectator pursuant to the provisions of Rule VII, Article 703.1(b) and that any horse or horses completely or in part owned, leased or of any partnership, corporation or stable of his, or shown in any name or for his credit or reputation whether such interest was held at the time of the alleged violation or acquired thereafter, be suspended from competing or taking any part whatsoever in Recognized competitions pursuant to the provisions of Rule VII, Article 703.1(c), for eight (8) months, commencing on September 20, 1999 and terminating at midnight on May 19, 2000, subject, however, to any determination by the CAS upon appeal or the determination of any other appeal, or any further determination by the FEI, to the extent that such determinations reverse, terminate and/or reduce the term of Mr. Ward's FEI suspension, in which case the AHSA suspension would be terminated or reduced accordingly; and

b. Mr. Ward be fined, pursuant to AHSA Rule VII, Article 703.1(j), the sum of $10,000, such fine to be paid to the AHSA by February 1, 2000, and that should said fine not be paid in full prior to the termination of the aforesaid suspension period, said suspension will remain in effect until such time as it is paid. Said fine will be remitted to Mr. Ward in the event that the CAS or any other appeal decision reverses the findings of violation of FEI rules and the suspension and fine imposed by the FEI.

The Hearing Committee received and considered a plea tendered by Mr. McLain Ward of Brewster, New York pursuant to which he acknowledged: i) that he was the trainer of the horse OLIVER at the American Gold Cup Horse Show held on September 18, 1999; ii) that OLIVER showed in Class 10; and iii) that the urine sample collected from OLIVER tested positive for metabolites of cocaine.

WARD vigorously denies having administered cocaine to OLIVER or having any knowledge as to anyone having administered the drug or how the drug may have been administered to OLIVER or how the horse may have come into contact with the drug, but does not contest that as the trainer of OLIVER he is held responsible for the horse's condition under the AHSA's Rules. Accordingly, by vote of the members of the Hearing Committee present at the meeting, it was resolved to approve and accept this Plea Agreement, and therefore, it was further resolved that Mr. Ward be found not in good standing and that he be suspended from competing or taking part whatsoever in recognized competitions as an exhibitor, participant or spectator pursuant to the provisions of Rule VII, Article 703.1(b) and that any horse or horses, completely or in part owned, leased, or of any partnership, corporation or stable of his, or shown in any name or for his credit or reputation, whether such interest was held at the time of the alleged violation or acquired thereafter, be suspended from competing or taking any part whatsoever in recognized competitions pursuant to the provisions of Rule VII, Article 703.1(c) for one month, commencing on April 1, 2000 and terminating at midnight on April 30, 2000, provided Mr. Ward is not under suspension pursuant to an FEI Violation and/or an AHSA/USET Code of Conduct Violation and/or any other violation. If Mr. Ward is under suspension in April, 2000 for an FEI violation and/or an AHSA/USET Code of Conduct Violation and/or any other violation, he instead shall be suspended for two (2) months commencing October 2, 2000 and terminating at midnight on November 30, 2000. Furthermore, he shall be fined the sum of $3,000.00 pursuant to the provisions of Rule VII, Article 703.1(j), said fine to be paid to the Association's office by February 1, 2000. After paying such fines and serving such suspensions, said trainer will, barring any further determinations or findings of a violation, be restored to good standing with the AHSA.

The Hearing Committee also received and considered a plea tendered by MS. SHARON DAUK of Ridgefield, Connecticut, the owner of OLIVER for all purposes relevant to the exhibition of said horse at the American Gold Cup Horse Show on September 18, 1999. DAUK vigorously denies having any knowledge of, or responsibility for, the presence of the metabolites of cocaine in the urine sample collected from OLIVER but does not contest that the presence of such metabolites in the horse in Class 10 at the American Gold Cup Horse Show is a violation of the AHSA's rules which requires disqualification of the horse from any winnings at said show. Accordingly, by unanimous vote of the Hearing Committee present at the meeting, it was resolved that DAUK must return all trophies, prizes, ribbons and monies, if any, won by OLIVER at the American Gold Cup Horse Show and must pay a $50.00 fee to the Show in connection with this penalty pursuant to the provisions of Rule IV, Article 406.5, said winnings, if any to be returned to the Show by February 1, 2000.

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