Record 20-Year Suspension Imposed in UAE Fatal Horse Abuse Case

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June 8, 2020

A record 20-year suspension has been imposed by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Tribunal against a United Arab Emirates rider in the fatal injury of an Endurance horse.

Sh Abdul Aziz Bin Faisal Al Qasimi was also fined 17,500 Swiss francs/US$18,230/€16,138 in the case of involving Castlebar Contraband at a CE1* event in Fontainebleau, France Oct. 15, 2016. He was also ordered to pay 15,000 Swiss francs toward tribunal costs.

Castlebar Contraband sustained an open fracture to its front right cannon bone during the event and had to be euthanized. Blood samples collected from the horse later found the controlled medication substance Xylazine, which is used as a sedative, analgesic and muscle relaxant but is prohibited in competition. The substance, which is rapidly excreted from the body, is known to be used in Endurance to lower the heart rate. No valid veterinary form, the equine equivalent of a therapeutic use exemption, exists for the substance.

The FEI current table of 56 suspensions shows that 37 involved endurance, 14 jumping, three eventing and two dressage.

The FEI Tribunal accepted the explanation of the treating veterinarian who euthanized the horse that Xylazine was not used in the procedure. The defendant claimed Xylazine had been used in the euthanasia process.

FEI Veterinary Director Dr Göran Åkerström told the tribunal that nerve blocking removes the “very fundamental protective function of sensitivity” and increases the risk of catastrophic injury. This is especially relevant for fractures that are due to bone fatigue, stress fractures, as a horse will not show any signs of pain, such as lameness, while under the influence of an injected substance.

The post mortem report revealed the appearance of multiple lesions with a highly targeted location, consistent with recent injections, demonstrating that the horse had been nerve blocked in training, and both before and during the competition. The, together with osteoarthritis in the right front fetlock joint, resulted in stress fractures that ultimately caused the catastrophic injury.

As a result, the tribunal ruled that the athlete had committed horse abuse, that Equine Controlled Medication rules had been violated and imposed what the FEI reported was the strongest sanctions in the history of the governing body of international horse sports.

The rider was suspended for a total of 20 years–18 years for horse abuse and two years for ECM rule violation. The suspension began the date of the decision, June 3, 2020 and will run until May 27, 2040.

“This is a really great result for horse welfare and the fight against doping in equestrian sport,” FEI Legal Director Mikael Rentsch said. “We are very happy to see such a strong sanction handed down by the FEI Tribunal and it offers a stern warning to others that the tribunal will not tolerate cases of horse abuse.”

“This was a tragic case of a horse losing its life due to desensitization and micro-dosing and, while we have had concerns that this has been ongoing for some time, this was the first solid evidence we have had of nerve blocking during rides as well as micro-dosing,” Veterinary Director Dr Göran Åkerström said. “This has resulted in a change in our post mortem procedures to make them more forensic and also allowed us to prioritize the research and development of the hyposensitivity control system which is now in place.”

An appeal can be made to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) within 21 days of June 3.