Uncertainty for USA Team Riders Adrienne Lyle & Kaitlyn Blythe

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Adrienne Lyle and Horizon competing at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival CDI3* when the horse was tested and found with ractopamine in his system. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

WELLINGTON, Florida, April 6, 2017–USA Olympian Adrienne Lyle and American Under-25 team rider Kaitlyn Blythe are scouring their barns for what is a massively expensive effort to test feed and supplements for an additive that was found in both their horses and triggered provisional suspensions of two months.

Similar cases in endurance in Great Britain in 2009 and the Thoroughbred industry in California have led to findings that the additive had contaminated horse feed and riders and owners could not be held responsible for prohibitively expensive testing of every substance fed to a horse.

The additive is Ractopamine, made by the giant Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company and used extensively in feeds designed to boost weight in cattle and swine in the United States, Canada and Japan but banned throughout most of Europe and Asia.

Ractopamine was detected in Horizon competed by Adrienne Lyle and Don Principe ridden by Kaitlin Blythe. Both combinations were tested at the CDI3* at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida Feb. 8-12.

Laboratory testing was conducted at the U.S. Equestrian Federation in Lexington, Kentucky that operates the official lab in America for the International Equestrian Federation (FEI).

FEI officially notified the two riders, the “persons responsible,” Thursday of the findings and both they and their horses were suspended for two months until the FEI Tribunal either confirmed the provisional action or cleared the riders of any wrong-doing.

A third option for the FEI Tribunal is to determine ractopamine in this case was a “Specified Substance” that are “more likely to have been ingested by horses for a purpose other than the enhancement of sport performance, for example, through a contaminated food substance.”

As soon as Adrienne and Kaitlin were notified of the action, the two riders compared lists of feed and supplements that produced identical results in their two horses at the same time.

At least one major animal feed company is working with the riders to test products and review production records.

Adrienne and Kaitlin also have the right to have a so-called “B sample” tested.

The responsibility to prove innocence falls squarely on the riders as “persons responsible,” part of the zero tolerance policy that assumes guilt if certain substances are discovered in a horse with no consideration before the sentence is enacted.

The U.S. federation is not directly involved but was expected to advise the riders on the best way to proceed with an appeal against the suspension.

A similar situation occurred to Christine Yeoman, one of Britain’s leading endurance riders, who won a precedent-setting legal battle against the FEI.

Christine spent £200,000/US$300,000 to clear her name after her horse CJS Gai Forest tested positive for ractopamine at an event in England in 2009.

Extensive investigation of all feed at Christine’s barn discovered traces of ractopamine in Neigh-Lox, a supplement designed to help prevent gastric ulcers.

Though the American manufacturer, Kentucky Performance Products, admitted the contamination, the FEI said Christine was negligent simply because she chose to give her horse the supplement and determined she had not done enough research on the supplement.

A year after the initial testing, the FEI Tribunal returned a not guilty verdict, concluding that supplements are not optional in horse sport.

The ruling stated: “Even ordinary feed is often mixed and includes several additives which may be contaminated. Even feed without additives may be contaminated.

“Equestrian sport on a high level can be said to require the use of feed supplements to care properly for such elite horses.

“In the tribunal’s opinion, PRs [persons responsible, ie the rider] are not the proper party to bear the risk of supplements contaminated at the manufacturer level.”

The FEI did not appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn the tribunal’s determination.

No matter the eventual outcome, a decision is unlikely before May 1, the deadline for Adrienne to earn a second score on the American syndicate-owned stallion Salvino to qualify for the national championships next month.

The last opportunity for Adrienne to qualify Salvino on the East Coast is at the CDI3* in Tryon, North Carolina April 20-23.