The FEI tribunal ruled this morning that Jock Paget and Kevin McNab will be cleared of all doping charges related to Clifton Promise and Clifton Pinot’s positive reserpine tests following the Burghley Horse Trials last fall. This is just the second time in history the FEI has exonerated an athlete after a horse tested positive for a banned substance.
“It is very important to the reputation of equestrian and New Zealand sport that no athlete should be knowingly involved in any act of doping,” Equestrian Sports New Zealand president Chris Hodson said in a statement. “That Jock Paget has proved his innocence, which requires a very high standard which has only been achieved in one previous case, is intensely satisfying, and fully justifies the support which ESNZ has given him throughout.”
In its 36-page decision, the FEI explains that a liquid supplement called LesstresseE, manufactured and distributed by Trinity Consultants, was found to contain traces of reserpine upon extensive testing. Both Jock, Kevin and other members of the New Zealand eventing team had used the product for horses that suffered from stress at major competitions.
In building his case with the law firm of Burges Salmon — which won the only other successful banned substance case in 2009 — Jock explained he had started used LesstressE in 2010 under the recommendation of Joe Meyer, who had previously used the supplement in competition with negative testing results.
Jock used LesstressE in 2010 on a horse at Aachen that subsequently tested negative following the event. With Clifton Promise, the horse had tested negative for any banned substances four times between July 2010 and September 2013, always after having been given LesstressE, the FEI’s report said.
Dr. Oliver Pynn, team veterinarian for the New Zealand eventing team, said he requested a list of all supplements Jock was using in May 2012 in order to check the ingredients list. In examining LesstressE, Dr. Pynn said he only found it to contain “benign herbs and tryptophan.”
The FEI’s report also shows that on multiple occasions Jock had contacted Roger Hatch, director of the product manufacturer Trinity Consultants, who “unequivocally confirmed” that LesstressE did not contain any prohibited substances.
But Dr. Mark Dunnett, a consulting equine toxicologist with Independent Equine Nutrition, tested 12 bottles of LesstressE labeled as manufactured between May and August 2013, all of which tested positive for reserpine in quantities ranging from .08 to .11 milliliters. Clifton Promise and Clifton Pinot were regularly receiving doses of 25 milliliters during competitions.
After the LesstressE testing confirmed reserpine contamination, Trinity Consultants agreed to a product recall. The bottles returned to the manufacturer were also independently tested and found to contain traces of reserpine, leading to the conclusion that the product had been contaminated before leaving the facility.
The tribunal ultimately exonerated Jock on the basis that he established no fault or negligence for the rule violation. Though the tribunal said it believes Jock did try to enhance the horse’s performance through the use of LesstressE, that “does not necessarily mean that he is ipso facto barred from establishing the absence of fault or negligence.”
Based largely on the fact that Jock provided evidence he had consulted numerous times with the team vet and product manufacturer to ensure the supplement was free of prohibited substances — and that Clifton Promise had tested negative four times after receiving the supplement — the tribunal ultimately ruled to clear Jock.
Jock still loses his Burghley title, which was already stripped in April in a partial FEI tribunal ruling, as the horse competed with a banned substance in its system. The decision comes less than three weeks before Jock and Clifton Promise will represent New Zealand at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, and Jock said in a statement that he is hugely relieved.
“I feel as though I had my career stripped from me and now someone has said ‘hang on, you can have it back.’ It is complete relief,” Jock said. “I didn’t know if I would be cleared, despite knowing I had done nothing wrong. I knew it wouldn’t be as easy as turning around and saying ‘I didn’t do it’. I was fortunate that we were able to find the source of the contamination, trace it and prove it, and — most importantly — that I wasn’t responsible nor could have known.”
Click here to read the full 36-page ruling from the FEI.
Timeline of the Reserpine Controversy:
Nov. 19: Jock Paget: ‘I’m Not a Doper’