RL v Equestrian Australia
A member of Equestrian Australia was the “person responsible” for a Horse that returned positive blood and urine samples for the Controlled Medication substance, Metformin. On 8 May 2020, Equestrian Australia notified the Applicant that an Adverse Analytical finding had been made, which violated article 2.1 of the FEI Equine Controlled Medication Rules. The Applicant elected not to have the matter dealt with in accordance with the "Administrative Procedure", and instead requested that Equestrian Australia convene a Disciplinary Tribunal to determine the allegations against her. Whilst aspects of the matter are analogous to the anti-doping framework for athletes in Australia, the dispute is in fact of a disciplinary nature between the Applicant (a person bound by a sporting body's policies) and Equestrian Australia.
The Applicant did not dispute administering Metformin. However, the Applicant submitted that she did so on the advice of a veterinarian to pre-emptively treat the Horse for (and prevent the onset of) stress-related laminitis arising from transporting the Horse to the Event. The Applicant also submitted that the Horse competed at the Event on his own merit (that is, that the Metformin administered to the Horse in the period prior to the Event would not have had any effect on his performance). The Tribunal sought evidence from an expert witness, who is a Registered Equine Medicine Specialist and Senior Lecturer at Murdoch University. The evidence of the expert witness was that the dosage of Metformin given to the Horse would have had no effect on the Horse's performance in the Competition.
The Tribunal accepted that consistent with the principles underlying the ECM Rules, the Applicant, at every stage prior to and during the Event, had paramount in her mind the health and welfare of the Horse. The Tribunal directed that the Applicant pay a fine, imposed a 6 month period ineligibility commencing 1 February 2020, and that any results achieved by the Applicant during the period 1 February 2020 to 31 July 2020 be disqualified. The Tribunal also found that disqualification of the Horse when not ridden by the applicant (the “person responsible”) was not appropriate under the rules in view of the evidence that the dosage of Metformin would have had no effect on the Horse’s performance.