Home' The Horse Magazine : October 2016 Contents 8 HORSETALK
What is a drug is by no means clear cut.
Prior to the WEG in Stockholm in 1990,
it was considered perfectly acceptable
to give your horse a sachet of bute
(that’s one sachet, more got you into
trouble) at a competition - a bit like
the Aussie formula of a cup of tea, a
bex and a good lie down. However the
Swedes had a total ban on drugs like
bute, and the cost of getting the WEG
off to a brilliant start was that bute
was now a drug in any quantity.
Not that this deterred riders, since
the 1990 prohibition there have been
a steady progression of riders from
all over the world (including lots of
Aussies) who have been sanctioned to
using anti-inflammatories, like bute.
One of the more spectacular occasions
was in 1989, when in an effort to
show that Melbourne could host the
equestrian section of the Olympic
Games, UK eventers, Lucinda Green
and Ian Stark were invited, with their
horses, to compete at Werribee 3DE.
It was not a complete success. Lucinda
was carted off in an ambulance after
falling at the fifth fence, and Stark
'won' the competition on Foxy V, only
to be disqualified when the horse
proved positive to bute, yep he’d used
too much... it took some years before
they finally removed his name from
the leaderboard. This proof that Stark
was a 'drug cheat' did not affect his
career, he went on to compete at the
Sydney Games, retired in 2007 in a
blaze of platitudes, and was inducted
into the Scottish Hall of Fame in 2010.
He was an expert commentator for
television at the Rio Olympics.
One of the more spectacular
equestrian drug cases arose in
1997, at the European Showjumping
championships in Mannheim. Hugo
Simon’s groom was caught red-
handed holding a syringe to ET’s
neck between the two final rounds
of competition. According to German
chief steward, Hans Wall Meier, when
he asked: “What are you doing?” the
groom dropped the syringe into the
straw. Meier called chief veterinarian
Peter Cronau who immediately sealed
and froze the syringe.
The groom denied using and hiding
the syringe, Simon claimed ignorance,
saying he was nowhere near the barn
at the time, and later stormed out of a
press conference following the medal
ceremony where he was awarded the
individual silver medal. One month
later, it was confirmed that the testing
laboratory at Newmarket had found no
banned substance in either the blood
or urine of ET, so Simon was acquitted
of doping!!! Those were the days...
days when the press was well trained
and provided with very pleasant press
rooms, in return for reporting how
lovely the sponsors were and how
charming the competitors - even the
arrogant and totally charmless Simon.
Our on-the-spot reporter at the time,
told me she didn't know what to do,
so trained she was to only report
through rose-tinted glasses. Include
the information in your story, says I.
The Athens Games of 2004 produced
some fairly explosive results and
these could not easily be hushed up
or buried in layers of FEI bureaucracy.
The showjumping gold medallist
ridden by Ireland’s Cian O'Connor,
tested positive for Zuclopenthixol
(clopixol), Fluphenazine, Guanabenz
and Reserpine. The FEI officially
disqualified O’Connor on June 10,
2005, a decision that also led to the
disqualification of the entire Irish
show jumping team. The story got
steadily more like a paperback thriller,
when someone (the Irish mafia?)
broke into the Irish equestrian
federation office, and pinched the B
sample - luckily there was another B
in another lab.
Had an atypically out-of-it steward
at Aachen at the Euros last year, not
run in front of Mr O'Connor as he lined
up a fence, the Irishman would have
been competing in the team at Rio...
Along with O'Connor, two high
profile Germans returned positives
at Athens although for nothing quite
as exotic as the Irishman's little
brew, which apparently contained
medication for human psychosis!
Ludger Beerbaum was disqualified
when Goldfever proved positive to
betamethasone. Ludger protested
that the substance was in an ointment
used to treat a skin irritation on the
horse, and the FEI Judicial Committee
accepted that the substance was
indeed for a medical condition and did
not enhance the horse’s performance.
However, even though Beerbaum did
not purposefully try to enhance his
horse’s performance, Goldfever did
have a prohibited substance in his
system, and was therefore disqualified
which cost the Germans team gold.
Bettina Hoy's eventer, Ringwood
Cockatoo, also returned a positive to
the anti-histamine, diphenhydramin.
The Austrian eventer, Foxy ridden by
Harald Riedl, returned a positive for
flunixin, which made for four positives
and a degree of shock-horror-amaze.
At the time, Paul Schockemöhle
editorialised in Z Magazine:
"Some 30 years ago, when I was a
representative of the international
showjujmping riders, I had a talk
with the British Prince Phillip about
threshold values we would like to see
applied for the medication of horses.
Prince Phillip was the president of the
FEI at the time, but also a practical
horseman; he had been around the
driving sport long enough to know
what kinds of things could befall a
"The competition sport knows many
minor mishaps, which, when treated
with a common household remedy or
something like that, make life easier
for the competition horses and even
tip the balance between starting and
not starting. I would elaborate on the
words 'something like that', for old-
fashioned household remedies are
nowadays often no longer available
in their natural form. They have been
What is a drug?
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