It sucks to be Jock Paget these days. Not only does he face the battle to prove himself innocent to the FEI Tribunal (the B sample tested positive according to a statement from the NZ federation yesterday), but he has to somehow hang onto his status as New Zealand’s newest equestrian Golden Boy. His fall from grace will be a messy one if he is unable to prove that Clifton Promise was contaminated with Reserpine, rather than administered it deliberately. The Kiwis love their eventers, thanks to a long string of Olympic and World Champion super heroes that has made that little island nation disproportionately powerful in the sport (imagine if Belgium were to suddenly dominate international figure skating). But the Kiwis are a pretty upstanding bunch, and I don’t doubt for a moment that if Jock is found to be wanting in the ethics department he will be shunned by his compatriots, at least for a while.
You might ask why I am painting a worst-case scenario when the horse world at large seems to be banking on total exoneration. Well, because I’m basing my expectations not on wishful thinking but on statistics. Reserpine is a BANNED SUBSTANCE. It’s doping, not medication. And in the FEI Tribunal, when horses test positive for things the FEI has deemed don’t belong in a horse’s body, the outcome is nearly always a suspension of the Person Responsible. Jock will have to show that Clifton Promise had Reserpine in his bloodstream due to accidental contamination, but past attempts at similar defenses don’t bode well (tip for Jock: don’t go for the stall bar-licking defense. Isabell tried it and it didn’t fly).
If I were to hazard a guess at what the scientists who are part of Jock’s defense ‘team’ are doing this minute, it’s madly testing every single supplement known to the equestrian kingdom in order to support the argument that the horse had received a natural supplement that caused a false positive for Reserpine. There is evidence out there that the drug, being of plant derivation, can occasionally be confused in tests with other, less condemning herbal supplements. Here’s an interesting factoid about Reserpine. According to the Wiki world, Reserpine , which comes from the dried root of Indian Snakeroot, has been used in India for centuries to treat insanity. Mahatma Gandhi apparently used it as a tranquilizer. Unless Jock is hiring his barn staff out of mental institutions, it is highly unlikely that his horse was contaminated via a person who takes the drug. And besides, it has almost entirely been replaced in human medicine by other drugs which are more effective and have fewer side effects. And I seriously doubt that Clifton Eventers has been sourcing its hay from Southeast Asia.
Now, I’m bracing myself for a torrent of angry comments from believers in Jock’s innocence – but the prospect of riling people up hasn’t stopped me before, has it? I feel compelled to share with you what I’ve learned after only a very small amount of online research. Reserpine may be on its way out in human medicine, but its use is alive and well in the equestrian world. People have cried out in Jock’s defense that only an idiot would give a four star event horse a sedative when it has to perform at its peak. But guess what. Reserpine is a popular drug for calming down nutty race horses. If you visit the website of Horseprerace.com you will find not only the possibility of ordering injectable Reserpine, you will also find that the company promotes its use the day before AND the day of an event (ie barrel race, horse race etc). According to horseprerace.com, “RESERPINE INJECTION produces a prolonged calming effect without sedation, drowsiness, or loss of coordination, and vicious or dangerously anxious horses will become relaxed, sociable and co-operative with continued treatment.”
Yep, I would say Jock’s got a long uphill slog ahead of him.