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R.K. Watson (Trainer) Prohibited Substance Referral – Downpatrick 18th September 2020

The Referrals Committee, Mr. Justice Tony Hunt, (in the chair), Mr. Peter M. Allen and Mr. Anthony Byrne convened via Zoom on Thursday, 7th January 2021 to consider whether or not R.K. Watson (Trainer) was in breach of any rules as a result of a report received from LGC Laboratories, Fordham, UK.

The report stated that the urine sample taken from British Art (GB), following his win in the Joe Rea Memorial Handicap Hurdle at Downpatrick on 18th September 2020, was found to contain dexamethasone. Under Rule 20(v) and Regulation R14 of the Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules dexamethasone is a prohibited substance.

The trainer accepted the ‘A’ Sample results and declined the option to have the ‘B’ samples analysed.

Evidence was heard from Dr. Lynn Hillyer, IHRB Chief Veterinary Officer and Head of Anti-Doping, Mr. Marshall Watson, representing R.K. Watson, trainer and Mr. Eric Smith, veterinary surgeon, while the Committee also considered an investigation report prepared by Dr. Hillyer into the adverse analytical findings.

In her evidence, Dr. Hillyer summarised the investigation into the adverse analytical finding. She confirmed that dexamethasone is a corticosteroid with anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties used to treat a variety of conditions in horses including lameness and respiratory disease. She stated on contacting Mr. Marshall Watson, acting on behalf of his father, R.K. Watson, he confirmed British Art had been prescribed Dexafort Suspension for Injection, a licensed product containing dexamethasone by Veterinary Surgeon Eric Smith for the treatment of an allergic reaction and that he had administered the treatment himself by intramuscular injection on 13th September. This administration was recorded in the Medicines Register with a withdrawal time of 5 days entered, but it was not clear who advised this withdrawal time.

Dr. Hillyer stated that when administered by intravenous injection as the clear liquid Dexadreson at a single dose of 15 ml for a 500 kg horse, the European Horserace Scientific Liaison Committee published Detection Time for dexamethasone is 5 days. Veterinary surgeons are advised to use this Detection Time as the basis for advising trainers of a longer, suitable Withdrawal Time based on any variation to this dose and/or formulation. Dr. Hillyer was of the opinion, based on the difference in formulation and route of administration between Dexadreson and Dexafort given by Mr. Marshall Watson, that a withdrawal time in excess of 5 days was necessary.

In his evidence, Mr. Marshall Watson stated that Eric Smith, Veterinary Surgeon, had been using his gallops on 13th September with a horse of his own, and he showed him British Art who had developed what looked like an allergic reaction following turnout to a paddock. He said that Mr. Smith had advised him that he could use Dexafort to treat the horse, as there was supply issues with the more commonly used Colvasone and Mr. Watson had used Dexafort to treat another horse earlier in the year. Mr. Watson added that he gave a 12 ml dose as opposed to the recommended 15 ml and as the withdrawal time for Colvasone was five days, he felt that as Dexafort was recommended as a substitute it would have a similar withdrawal time, therefore there would be no issues administering the treatment on 13th September and running the horse on 18th September. In his evidence, Mr. Eric Smith explained that he had been asked to look at British Art on 13th September and that he felt the horse was suffering from some sort of reaction, possibly to a nettle sting or a fly bite. He was aware of Mr. Watson having Dexafort for use on a three-year-old out of training and recommended using it due to the shortage of Colvasone. He stated he could not recall if a discussion had taken place about the horse running just a few days later.

Having considered the evidence, the Committee were satisfied that R.K. Watson, trainer, was in breach of Rule 96(a) as a prohibited substance was present in the sample taken from British Art (GB) at Downpatrick. They disqualified British Art (GB), ordered that the stake be forfeited and amended the result to read as follows:

Joe Rea Memorial Handicap Hurdle

First:     Lusis Naturea (GB)
Second:     Greenandwhitearmy
Third:     Willyouwalkwithme
Fourth:     Deauville Society
Fifth:     Ladymorata
Sixth:     Bally Upper

The Committee also imposed a €1,000 fine on R.K. Watson as they were not satisfied that Mr. Marshall Watson, acting on his behalf, had taken all reasonable precautions to avoid a breach of this rule, since he allowed exactly 5 days withdrawal time in the mistaken belief that the withdrawal time for the medication was 5 days. The Committee noted that even if Dexadreson, the product for which the Detection Time was published, had been used, extra time had not been added to lengthen the Detection Time into an appropriate Withdrawal Time, leaving no margin for error.

The case was presented by Ms. Cliodhna Guy, IHRB Head of Legal, Licensing & Compliance.

Mr. Watson was represented by Suzanne Walsh B.L. instructed by Denis F. McDwyer & Co Solicitors, Main St, Killeshandra, Co Cavan.

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