By Dr. Carlo Zuccoli, HRI Foreign Contributor — On June 13 2020, Franconia (GB) (b. f. 2017 Frankel), bred by Juddmonte Farms Ltd., owned by His Highness the late Prince Khaled bin Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud, trained at Newmarket by John Gosden and ridden by Lanfranco Dettori, won at Newbury the British Stallion Studs / MansionBet Abingdon Fillies’ Stakes, Listed, 1m2f, at 7/4F.
Later, the filly was disqualified (banned substance in sample).
Below are only facts that we know about this case.
I quote from British Horseracing Authority Judicial Panel (HH Philip Curl, Alison Royston and Tim Etherington), from result of an Enquiry (J. Gosden) heard by the Disciplinary Panel on Thursday 21st of October 2021:
“On 21 October 2021 the independent Disciplinary Panel of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) held an enquiry as to:
(i) Whether John Gosden, the trainer, was in breach of Rule (K)1 (Presence of a Prohibited Substance) as a result of a finding of Ketamine, Norketamine and Dehydronorketamine in a post-race urine sample taken from FRANCONIA following her win in the 15.00 British Stallion Studs EBF/Mansion Bet Abingdon Fillies Stakes on 13 June 2020 and, if so, the appropriate penalty to impose; and
(ii) Whether, because its post-race sample contained Ketamine, Norketamine and Dehydronorketamine FRANCONIA should be disqualified from the relevant race under Rule (L)47 Ground 4 (Horse Disqualifications)”.
“Mr Gosden in his Schedule (A)6 form admitted to being in breach “in part”. At the hearing Mr Gosden clarified that he was in breach of Rule (K)1 and that FRANCONIA’s disqualification was thus mandatory. In essence therefore the issue for the Panel was as to penalty”.
“Dr David Sykes (previously BHA Director of Equine Health and Welfare) provided a drug brief for Ketamine. Ketamine is capable of having a pharmacological effect on multiple mammalian body systems and is therefore prohibited on raceday as set out in Paragraph 10 of the Prohibited List Code.
Ketamine is one of the most commonly used agents for inducing anaesthesia in horses. Ketamine is rapidly metabolised to the major active metabolite Norketamine and the minor active metabolite Dehydronorketamine. It may also be used as an analgesic. Ketamine is also used as an anaesthetic in man.
Both Ketamine and Norketamine are used in man as recreational drugs. Many may ingest the drug through injection in a liquid form, swallowing in tablet form or snorting in powder form. It can make the user feel as if they are in a dream-like state, chilled, relaxed, happy and detached from their surroundings”.
“On 8 July 2020 Mr Jon Dunn (BHA Investigating Officer) made an unannounced visit to Mr Gosden’s stables. Mr Gosden was informed of the positive test for Ketamine and said he had never heard of the substance and could offer no explanation for its presence in FRANCONIA’s sample”.
“At a further meeting held on 21 August 2020, Mr Gosden informed the Investigating Officer that enquiries by him amongst his staff had resulted in a staff member admitting to recreational use of Ketamine and being the likely source of the positive test on FRANCONIA.
“That member of staff subsequently agreed to make a statement to the BHA in which they admitted occasional recreational use of Ketamine but not if they were working the next day. That person claimed that they had last used Ketamine about two weeks before the FRANCONIA race, but they had stored the drug in their wallet and believed that there may have been residue of Ketamine in the wallet.
“The member of staff had used their credit card from the wallet on the day of the race which may have transferred residue of Ketamine to their hands. They then handled the horse”.
“The BHA submitted that the only potential source of this AAF identified by the BHA investigation was contamination via a member of Mr Gosden’s staff. Mr Gosden agreed with this”.
“the hearing before the Panel proceeded on the basis that FRANCONIA must nevertheless be disqualified from the Abingdon Stakes under Rule (L)47, and what, if any, penalty should be imposed on Mr Gosden.
The relevant Rule (K)37 provides that a penalty must be imposed unless the Responsible Person for a breach of Rule (K)1 establishes that:
“(i) The Prohibited Substance … was not administered intentionally by the Responsible Person or by any other person … and;
(ii) The Responsible Person has taken all reasonable precautions to avoid violating Rule (K)1.”
“The Chairman of the Judicial Panel (HH Brian Barker CBE QC) had, on the joint application of the BHA and Mr Gosden, made a Direction that the member of Mr Gosden’s staff who was the probable source of the Ketamine should not be identified by any member of the media.
“Being satisfied that there were good and substantial reasons for the request and that the integrity of the sport would not be affected. He further directed that the matter could be reconsidered by the Panel Chairman on the day of the hearing”.
“The Panel accepted that after the AAF on FRANCONIA came to light, Mr Gosden had made enquiries from his staff to try and ascertain whether any one of them was likely to be the source of the Ketamine.
“As Mr Gosden told the hearing “I went in gently, otherwise they would all have clammed up”. One member of staff who was described as vulnerable and having had some difficulties in their life, broke down in tears and admitted that they were probably the source.
“As mentioned in Paragraph 9 above, that person subsequently made a statement to the BHA setting out how they believed the residue of Ketamine may have transferred via their hands to the horse. Mr Gosden told the hearing that it was a relief to him, Mr Gosden, to have established the source of the problem.
“The Panel, as stated earlier, were impressed by the general high standards and efficiency in Mr Gosden’s yard and by his active and sensitive assistance in locating the probably source of the Prohibited Substance”.
“Mr Gosden, as he accepts, will have to pay the costs of the B sample which totals £689.88. As a penalty for failing to take all reasonable precautions for a substance not administered intentionally, the entry point is £1,000 with a range of £750 – £10,000.
“The Panel concluded that given the exceptional circumstances outlined above it was just and proportionate in this case to impose a penalty on Mr Gosden below the lower limit of the range. In all the circumstances the Panel imposed a fine of £500 upon Mr Gosden.”