McLain Ward’s Sapphire Clean on Leg Swabs as Well as Blood & Urine
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
All tests–leg swabs, urine and blood–on Sapphire have all been found to be negative, the International Equestrian Federation announced Tuesday, but no immediate statement was made about further action involving the circumstances of the disqualification of the mare from the World Cup Final in Geneva last month.
The FEI said in a two paragraph-statement from its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, headlined “No prohibited substances found in Geneva leg swab samples:”
“The FEI has concluded MCP testing on leg swabs taken at the FEI World Cup™ Final in Geneva (13-19 April). No prohibited substances were found.
“The FEI announced last week that analysis of all urine and blood samples taken in Geneva had proved negative. This now completes the MCP Testing results from Geneva.”
The FEI, the international governing body of dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping, reining and vaulting, said that it will defend itself against an appeal/protest filed with the FEI Tribunal by the U.S. Equestrian Federation, McLain Ward and Tim Ober, the U.S. team veterinarian, over the disqualification.
McLain, reached in Rome where he is preparing for the second leg of the Meydan FEI Nations Cup, told dressage-news.com that he would have no comment at this time.
He and the legal team assembled by himself and the USEF will await the outcome of the FEI Tribunal review before announcing the next step.
Dressage-news.com has asked the FEI whether an investigation will be held into the circumstances that led to the disqualification of the 15-year-old Sapphire ridden by McLain Ward to the lead in the World Cup before being disqualified on grounds that triggered international outrage a month ago.
“In response to your question, the FEI technical committees will routinely review the application of a given rule or protocol and, as part of this process, can suggest improvements where they can be made based on practice,” an FEI spokesperson replied.
“This case, as any other, would be the subject of such an evaluation, although naturally the outcome of any pending legal procedure would need to be considered prior to any changes being made.”
The case cast a cloud over the World Cup Final in Geneva and more widespread over the administration of FEI veterinary and control procedures. The FEI called them “protocols” that could not be challenged at the time of the incident.
McLain of Brewster, New York, and Sapphire finished second in the first of four rounds of the World Cup Final, a situation similar to their 2009 campaign when they finished second behind Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum of Germany.
Fifteen minutes into the second round, FEI veterinarians scanned Sapphire’s legs. The veterinarians said they detected hypersensation in one leg, but determined that the pair could jump the course. They did so and again placed second.
As the previous round’s leader incurred penalties, McLain and Sapphire went to the top of the leaderboard with just two rounds on the final day to go and presenting an opportunity for the first American title at the World Cup of jumping since 1987.
After the class was over, the FEI veterinarians conducted a second thermo-imaging scan and announced that Sapphire displayed “an abnormal level of hypersensitivity” and was disqualified.
So stunned was McLain, U.S. team veterinarian Dr. Timothy Ober, Chef d’Equipe George Morris and the U.S. Equestrian Federation, that they insisted the FEI draw blood to be tested for drugs. The FEI at first did not do so, and the U.S. drew blood as backup before the FEI performed their own blood sampling 30 hours after the disqualification. The American samples were frozen pending the FEI findings.
The shock waves were felt on both sides of the Atlantic. Two days after the disqualification, The New York Times, which rarely reports on show jumping, published an extensive article including the disclosure by an FEI official that the tests on Sapphire were conducted “on the basis of confidential information received.” The FEI would not disclose the source of the information.