FEI Upholds Prohibited Substance Finding, Suspends USA’s Paige Johnson for One Year

FEI Upholds Prohibited Substance Finding, Suspends USA’s Paige Johnson for One Year
Paige Johnson and Luke Skywalker competing at WEF 2017. Ph. ©Erin Gilmore for NF
Paige Johnson and Luke Skywalker competing at WEF 2017. Ph. ©Erin Gilmore for NF

On Wednesday, August 9, 2017, the FEI issued its Final Decision regarding a prohibited substance case under the FEI’s Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations.

Samples taken on January 21, 2017 from the horse Luke Skywalker 46 the USA’s by Paige Johnson at the Winter Equestrian Festival CSI2* in Wellington FL, tested positive for the local anesthetic Pramoxine, which is classified as a banned substance under the FEI Equine Prohibited Substances List.

Johnson was notified on April 5, 2017 of the presence of a Prohibited Substance in Luke Skywalker’s bloodstream. She and her longtime groom Sergio Molinero quickly tracked down the source of the Substance, and Molinero submitted the following testimony to the FEI:

“Luke had some minor cuts in January 2017 when we were stabled in Wellington, Florida for the Winter Equestrian Festival. All of the grooms have been told by Dr. Nolan that we should use a triple antibiotic on the competition horses if they have minor cuts because it helps the horse and is okay under the anti-doping rules. This ointment can be bought in any grocery store without a prescription and we have been using it at Salamander Farm for many years. It is made for people, but can be used safely on horses. It can be purchased in the United States for less than USD $4.00 per tube. We usually keep some extra tubes around but in early January 2017 when Luke first had his cuts there was none left. So on January 5, 2017, I went to Walmart with my Salamander Farm credit card to purchase a few things we needed including the triple antibiotic for Luke’s minor cuts. On that day, I found the triple antibiotic on the shelves in the same spot it always is and pulled four (4) tubes of it off the shelves.

I now see that I mistakenly bought triple antibiotic with pain relief, and the pain relief contains Pramoxine.”

Johnson argued that Molinero, who had a flawless record of performance during the 15 years he has worked for her Salamander Farm, made a mistake without ill intent, and since the positive finding, she and her staff had changed and improved their barn management procedures.

The FEI took note of this fact and argued that the improvement of barn management procedures meant that she did not do the utmost to avoid a positive test previously, and, among additional arguments, upheld its findings, imposing a one year suspension, and stated:

“The FEI believes that making the rider the responsible in this way is necessary to protect the welfare of the horse, and to ensure fair play. It strongly incentivises riders to ensure compliance with the rules, whether by caring for the horse personally or else by entrusting that task only to third parties who are up to the job. In the case of such delegation, it protects the welfare of the horse, and clean sport, by requiring the rider to stay appraised of and be vigilant with respect to the way the horse is being prepared for competition, including as to any treatments given to the horse.”

As Johnson had been provisionally suspended from 5 April 2017 for three months, she will now not be eligible to compete until 4 April 2018. The FEI Tribunal also imposed a fine of 2,000 CHF and contribution of 3,000 CHF towards legal costs.

Johnson has appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The complete report on the FEI Tribunal Decision can be found here.