American show jumper Paige Johnson has been suspended for one year by the FEI following a positive doping test and tribunal hearing. She was provisionally suspended when the positive test first came back in April, so her suspension will end in April of 2018. She has already filed an appeal the FEI Tribunal’s ruling.
Paige’s horse Luke Skywalker – a 12-year-old bay Oldenburg gelding owned by Salamander Farm – tested positive for Pramoxine in samples taken on January 21, 2017 at the Winter Equestrian Festival. She was competing in the CSI 2*. As it happens, she and the horse retired on course in the GP that week.
Pramoxine is a topical anesthetic that relieves pain in cases of cuts and scrapes. It is found in many human over-the-counter products, including many triple antibiotic ointments.
According to the hearing details, Paige and her team did not refute that the horse may have had pramoxine in its system. Rather, they explained how it got there and the accidental nature of the circumstances.
Paige’s team explained that her team was thoroughly trained in banned substances and go to exhaustive lengths to prevent contamination between their FEI horses and normal horses. According to their testimony, the horse had a scrape on its flank, and Paige’s groom, Sergio Molinero, went to Wal Mart to buy triple antibiotic ointment. They normally buy regular antibiotic ointment, but he accidentally purchased the same product with pain relief – amoxine. They included photos of the products, receipts from the purchase, and provided examples of similar cases the FEI accepted as special circumstance cases.
In response, the FEI’s prosuction team argued that a) the defense did not refute the horse received the banned substance from the team, b) ignorance does not equal innocence, and c) the cases cited by the defense were cases where the banned substance was not explicitly listed as an ingredient – ergo, they didn’t knowingly provide it. They made a clear distinction between failing to read a label and unknowingly feeding an unlisted ingredient.
Their primary argument was, in essence, that while Paige was very careful on so many levels to keep her barn substance-free, using a generic, over-the-counter ointment that could be easily confused with a banned substance was in and of itself careless.
The Tribunal determined that it was not a case of malicious doping to disguise pain and that Paige’s ‘degree of fault’ was less than the maximum (knowingly applying it herself), and therefore they did not give her the maximum penalty of two years, but instead one year.
She will also have to pay the FEI’s legal fees in pursuing the case, approximately $5000.