The FEI Tribunal has lifted the provisional ban on New Zealand eventer Jock Paget – a clear indication that his “no fault, no negligence” defence found traction with the disciplinary panel.
The decision follows a two-day hearing in London this week, in which Paget and Australian eventer Kevin McNab presented their cases over the discovery of the long-acting sedative, reserpine, in the mounts they rode at the Burghley horse trials in September last year.
Paget won the event on Clifton Promise, but was stripped of the title in an interim decision by the tribunal before the start of northern hemisphere eventing season. The decision was encouraged by Paget, who wanted to tidy up any confusions around world rankings ahead of the main competitions.
The Burghley disqualification will stand, regardless of the findings of the tribunal when it releases its full decision.
The FEI announced the immediate lifting of the provisional suspensions on Paget and McNab today, saying the decision followed a specific request from the two athletes during the London hearing for the lifting of the bans.
The FEI stressed that the lifting of the provisional suspensions was a preliminary decision. It said the tribunal’s final decision in both cases would be issued at a later date.
However, the minimum ban imposed for drug breaches of this nature was normally at least two years, unless the riders – officially designated under the rules as the Person Responsible – can prove no fault and no negligence. Such a defence has been successful only once before.
Paget’s ban has been in place since formal notification of the positive A sample on Clifton Promise on October 14 last year. McNab’s mount was Clifton Pinot.
Equestrian Sports New Zealand (ESNZ) chief executive Jim Ellis welcomed the ruling, but cautioned that it related solely to Paget’s provisional suspension.
“This is an encouraging step but it is important to wait for the Tribunal’s full ruling,” he said.
ESNZ said the tribunal stated in its interim ruling that it was “satisfied on a balance of probabilities, that the PR [Person Responsible, Paget] has demonstrated that he bore No Fault or Negligence for the EAD [equine anti-doping] rule violation.”
Ellis reaffirmed ESNZ’s ongoing and active support of FEI Clean Sport and World Anti Doping Agency programmes.
He said Paget’s suspension from all ESNZ activities, which had run concurrently, has also been lifted, pending the release of the tribunal’s full ruling.